In an eight-hour operation a team led by consultant plastic surgeon Professor Simon Kay connected the bones, tendons, nerves, arteries and veins of a former Royal Marine, Mark Cahill, before stitching the skin up.
The transplant which took place at Leeds General Infirmary was unique as the original hand was removed in the same procedure.
The initial result was a bruised, scarred and unfamiliar hand at the end of his right arm but in an interview with Paul Harris (Daily Mail) Mr Cahill had this to say….‘When the swelling goes down and the skin becomes the same colour you won’t be able to tell the difference.‘The nails grow and there are hairs growing,’ he adds, wiggling each finger independently.
‘It will never be totally mine, it’s smaller than my left hand and of course the fingerprints aren’t the same. But the difference it makes is incredible.’
Mark Cahill became the first person in Britain to have a hand transplant when the pioneering operation was carried out six months ago.
After struggling for so long with fingers crippled by gout and infection and enduring almost two decades of pain, he finally feels confident enough to hold the hand of his Grandson Thomas,4.
He can carry tea to his wife, Sylvia – and, triumphantly, he can walk hand in hand with his four-year-old grandson.
These were everyday gestures he was unable to perform when he lost use of his right hand five years ago.
It might not sound impressive, but to Mr Cahill – and the team behind the ground-breaking surgery – it is a medical milestone.
Simple tasks like dialling a number on his mobile phone and buttoning his shirt had been impossible for Mr Cahill when he suffered from gout and infections
So his loyal wife Sylvia partly buttoned his shirts, to allow him to slip them over his head; she then fastened the last buttons for him. Soon she expects to be relieved of shirt-button duty.
They even hold hands like young lovers yet they both know Mrs Cahill, 48, is holding a stranger’s hand. They have no idea who the donor was.
‘You can’t stop yourself wondering at first but I don’t dwell on it,’ Mr Cahill said. ‘You can think too much about that sort of thing. I still just sit and look at it in amazement. I can’t believe it. But it’s part of me now – my hand, my life.’
Mr Cahill got struck by at the age of 32, causing the joints on his left hand to swell and the fingers to curl. Then his right hand became infected and, eventually, paralysed. And when his disability worsened, he was forced to leave the pub he ran locally with his wife.
Mr Cahill was offered a prosthetic hand but opted for the real thing. Professor Kay thinks this was the right choice.
The doctor said ‘The thing that’s remarkable about Mark is the speed of recovery. And his attitude is absolutely fantastic. He just gets on with it. He is a Yorkshireman, after all.’