News Releases

News Releases

Nation’s Only Two Hand Transplant Recipients to Set off U.S. Largest Fireworks Event: Recipients will use new left hands to light up “Thunder Over Louisville 2001

For Immediate Release: 4/4/2001

LOUISVILLE, KY -Matthew Scott and Jerry Fisher, the only two people in the United States to receive a transplanted hand, will serve as official "Thundernators" at the Kentucky Derby Festival "Thunder Over Louisville" event April 21, by pushing the buttons to ignite the largest fireworks display in America.

Mike Berry, Kentucky Derby Festival president, made the announcement during a press conference at Jewish Hospital today. "The Derby Festival feels fortunate to have these two courageous men who took part in a pioneering medical procedure to act as 'Thundernators' for this year's Thunder Over Louisville," said Berry. Both Matt and Jerry's injuries were caused by firework accidents. We thought it was fitting that these two men - better than anyone- could reinforce the message that fireworks should be left to the professionals. These men are making the most of every day, and will have come full-circle in igniting the largest annual fireworks show in the United States," he added.

Both hand transplant recipients accepted because they wanted to send a message about fireworks safety. Scott said, "Fireworks should be left to the professionals. In the hands of amateurs, it can be disastrous." Fisher concurred, saying, "Every chance I get, I want to let people know what can happen when using fireworks."

Both men received their new left hands during surgical procedures performed by a team of hand surgeons from Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center, PLLC and University of Louisville at Jewish Hospital. Scott became the nation's first hand transplant recipient on January 24-25, 1999 and Fisher the second on February 16-17, 2001.

An update by Fisher's physicians, therapists and nurse was given at the conference. "Jerry (Fisher) has had three rejection episodes in the past six weeks, which is expected, all of which have been less serious than those of Matt's (Scott) episodes. All have been treated with medication and have been resolved," said lead transplant surgeon, Darla Granger, M.D. with University of Louisville.

"His hand therapy is on course or ahead of where Matt was at six weeks post surgery. At this time, Jerry has better thumb function and the same finger movement as Matt had (at six weeks)," lead hand surgeon with Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center, Warren Breidenbach, M.D. added. "This has nothing to do with the character or therapy of each man. The two are different anatomically in the type of damage from their original injury and the length of time between the accident and the transplant surgery."

Fisher has been fitted with a much smaller brace to support the hand externally and allow him to use the hand more. "Jerry has made many advances in the past six weeks," said physical therapist, Laurie Newsome. "He has added weights to his therapy sessions to increase strength and function in the hand. The milestone day was when he could lift a water bottle and pour into a glass, then drink from the glass. Jerry has strong lateral pinch to allow him to pick up smaller objects and this week, iron and fold a shirt with two hands. He has excellent early function and we look forward to adding more to his 'can do' list."

"At first I provided wound care and now skin care to the transplanted hand, along with medication infusion and drawing lab to free up Jerry's time more for other activities," said Mary Klausing, VNA Home Care Network, who provides home nursing care to Fisher while in Louisville.

It has been over two years since Scott received his new hand. He can use his new hand for everyday living activities including picking up his two sons, opening a car door, turning doorknobs, drinking from a glass, dialing a cell phone, writing his name and tying his shoes. Also, Scott has hot and cold sensation in the hand. He continues to gain progress with strength and function in his new hand and participates in hand therapy twice a week in his hometown.

The hand transplant program was developed by a partnership of physicians and researchers at Jewish Hospital, the University of Louisville, and Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center. Scott and Fisher's hand transplants are two of the ten hands transplanted around the world. The pioneering procedure is expected to greatly impact the future of transplantation and reconstructive surgery.

Information, photography and streaming video relating to the hand transplant are available on our web site at or

Go Back To The List of All News Stories


Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare Kleinert Institute Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center University of Louisville School of Medicine