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Hand transplant recipient - second in the nation - gains feeling in his new left hand

For Immediate Release: 8/16/2001

LOUISVILLE, KY - Patient Jerry Fisher, the second person in the United States to receive a hand transplant, continues to do well and has gained hot and cold sensation in his new left hand. Fisher marks his six-month anniversary date this week of the innovative experimental procedure. The hand transplant was performed at Jewish Hospital during a 13-hour surgical procedure by physicians from Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center, PLLC and University of Louisville on February 16-17.

"So far, so good," says Fisher. "The smile on my face gets bigger and bigger everyday. I'm hanging in there and it's working good." Fisher reported gaining feeling in his new left hand on June 30. "I can feel hot and cold," he said. "I ran cold water over it three more times to make sure what I was feeling."

"Sensation is expected to return to Jerry's (Fisher) hand in stages rather than all at once," said lead hand surgeon Warren C. Breidenbach, M.D., Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center, PLLC. "Regrowth of the nerve fibers must take place down to the fingertips. First he experienced a pin prickling feeling, then the hot and cold sensation. Later he will feel pressure. In the final stage, he will be able to identify an object by feeling, which could take up to five years. Jerry also has improved mobility in his forearm rotation, wrist motion, and finger movement. He continues to incorporate his new hand in everyday living activities and at work."

Fisher, a husband and father of three boys, returned to his home in Jackson, Michigan, May 17, after a three-month stay in Louisville following the hand transplant procedure. A self-employed contractor, he continues to manage his business and says he spontaneously uses his new hand to assist in the installation of gutters. "I have to watch it when I am working," said Fisher. "I have cut my hand a couple of times." Fisher added, "One of the joys of having two hands is I pick up the baby every morning just to hold him."

"Jerry continues to experience mild rejection, which is controlled with medicine applied directly to the hand," said lead transplant surgeon Darla K. Granger, M.D., University of Louisville, who monitors his drug therapy. "Since the rejection episode does not require hospitalization and does not hinder function in the hand, we feel there is no need for him to return to Louisville at this time." Fisher is expected to return to Louisville in October for his next checkup with the Louisville hand transplant team.

A mirror team to monitor Fisher was set up at the University of Michigan with a primary care physician, hand surgeon, transplant surgeon and an occupational therapist. The mirror team continues to monitor Fisher and report back to the Louisville hand transplant team on his progress. Fisher participates in hand therapy sessions at the University of Michigan Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation two-days-a-week.

The transplant procedure performed Feb. 16-17 at Jewish Hospital included an 18-member hand transplant surgical team from Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center, and the University of Louisville as well as a five-member team from Anesthesiology Associates. Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, an organ procurement organization, coordinated the donation of the hand. The group of surgeons that performed the procedure also performed the nation's first hand transplant on Matthew Scott over two years ago.

Together, Jewish Hospital, University of Louisville and Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center have supported the research initiatives of this innovative experimental procedure along with other procedures to improve the quality of life for patients.

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