UK first double hand transplant takes place in Yorkshire

Consultant plastic surgeon Professor Simon Kay with Chris King
Consultant plastic surgeon Professor Simon Kay with Chris King
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A South Yorkshire man says he feels “whole again” after undergoing a pioneering UK first double hand transplant.

Chris King is recovering from the 12-hour operation carried out by an expert team at Leeds General Infirmary.

The UK's first double hand transplant patient Chris King, from Doncaster, at Leeds General Infirmary. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The UK's first double hand transplant patient Chris King, from Doncaster, at Leeds General Infirmary. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The 57-year-old lost both his hands, except the thumbs, in an accident involving a metal pressing machine at work three years ago.

Speaking from his hospital bed Mr King, from Rossington, near Doncaster, said: “I couldn’t wish for anything better.

“It’s better than a lottery win because you feel whole again.”

He said the operation appears to have been a complete success and he already has some movement in his new hands, which he is looking forward to seeing properly when his bandages can be removed.

“They look absolutely tremendous,” he said.

“They’re my hands. They really are my hands. My blood’s going through them. My tendons are attached. They’re mine. They really are.

“It was just like the hands were made-to-measure. They absolutely fit. And it’s actually opened a memory because I could never remember what my hands looked like after the accident because that part of my brain shut down.”

Mr King, who is single, has gone back to work at Eaton Lighting, in Doncaster, where the accident happened and he said the firm has been “brilliant”.

He said he spent three years getting used to having no hands and resigned himself to living without them.

He was the second person to have a hand transplant at the hospital in Leeds, which is the UK’s specialist centre for the operation, and the first to have both hands replaced.

In 2012, the UK’s first single hand transplant was carried out on Mark Cahill, from Halifax.

Mr King recalled how doctors in Sheffield talked about reconstructive surgery and other options but said: “Something was telling me, no. There’s something better out there.”

One of the team referred him to consultant plastic surgeon Prof Simon Kay at LGI, who introduced him to Mr Cahill.

He said Mr Cahill encouraged him to have the operation and they’re now good friends: “We’ll shake hands one day. It’s wonderful stuff,” said Mr King.

An two-year evaluation took place before a decision was taken to add him to the list of people suitable for transplant.

Now, he is looking forward to cycling, gardening with his ride-on mower, wearing shirts with buttons and especially holding a bottle of beer properly.

“A bottle of Timothy Taylor’s - that’s what I can’t wait to get back for,” he said.

Prof Kay’s team is hoping to perform between two and four operations a year and has four people currently on the waiting list.

But Mr King is keen to stress the importance of people stepping forward as potential donors and became tearful when he was asked about the anonymous donor who gave their hands.

He said: “It’s marvellous. It’s like somebody putting an arm round you and saying you’ll be alright. It’s difficult to say thank you.

“We want as many donors as we can.

“Even if you don’t have a donor card, just have the conversation with your family.

“There’s no greater gift.”

The man whose hands were donated “would have given the shirt off his back to help somebody in need”, his family has said.

The donor, who will remain anonymous, gave his upper limbs as well as other organs.

A family statement said: “Learning that he had registered as an organ donor made our decision to support him donating so much easier.

“We are pleased that the double hand transplant operation was able to go ahead, and all of our family send our best wishes to the recipient. We are looking on his donation as a positive gift which we all hope will help somebody else to live a normal life.”

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