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Man gets new life with double hand transplant in pioneering surgery by UK doctors

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A team at Leeds Teaching Hospitals has performed the world’s first hand transplant in a patient whose hands were completely disabled by the rare disease scleroderma (Image courtesy: Twitter/@LeedsHospitals)

Doctors in Britain have given 48-year-old Steven Gallagher a new life by performing a double hand transplant.

Steven told BBC that he was in immense pain as his hands had been reduced to mere fists and were not usable due to scleroderma, an autoimmune disease.

But five months on from the pioneering surgery he is now pain-free and enjoying a new lease of life, according to the BBC report. 

He was referred to Professor Andrew Hart, a consultant plastic and hand surgeon based in Glasgow, who first raised the possibility of a double hand transplant.

After further conversations with Prof Hart, Steven also spoke to Professor Simon Kay, a consultant plastic surgeon at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust who led the UK's first double hand transplant operation in 2016.

Both said that though it was unlikely, there was a risk that he could lose the use of both hands.

He is believed to be the first person in the world with his condition to have the surgery. It involved a 30-strong team of professionals from many disciplines and was carried out in Leeds over a 12-hour period in December 2021 after a suitable donor was found.

"These hands are amazing, everything has happened so quickly. From the moment I woke up from the operation I could move them," he told BBC.

After spending four weeks in Leeds General Infirmary following the operation, Steven now makes regular visits to hospitals in Glasgow for physiotherapy and monitoring.

Although complex tasks such as doing up buttons are still beyond him, his improving condition means he can do things like stroke his dog, turn on the tap and fill a glass of water.

"Before the operation I was on so much pain relief it was unbelievable, but now I've no pain at all," he says.

Prof Kay said the operation had been a "huge team effort." and a hand transplant was "very different from a kidney or other organ transplant.

Hands are something we see every day and we use them in so many ways." 

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