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Nations First Double Hand Transplant Patient

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Jeff Kepner becomes nations first double hand transplant patient…

Jeff Kepner, 57, is the nations first double hand transplant patient. After loosing his hands and feet to an bacterial infection over a decade ago, Kepner was forced to live with prosthetics. That was until May 4th this year when he underwent the nine hour procedure to replace his hands.

So far Kepner has yet to regain the sense of touch in his hands, this is because nerves grow approximately one inch a month. And to help rebuild his muscles, Kepner must adhere to strict daily therapy routine.

jeff kepner double hand transplant 11 Nations First Double Hand Transplant Patient

Talking to reporters about his recover at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he underwent the surgery Kepner said that hope to inspire others who need such surgery to seriously consider it.

Kepner said he was glad that he decided to undergo the surgery, even though at first he had been skeptical. After learning that the world’s first double transplant patient had to have the hands removed because his body rejected them, Kepner decided he didn’t want the transplant as he could already manage with his prosthetics:

“I thought ‘Are you kidding me?’ I said, ‘There’s no way I’m going to do that,’”

But his wife, Valarie Kepner was persistent. She had contact UPMC without telling her husband saying that she wanted him to be able to regain some of his independence after being on her schedule for years – she gets up at 04:30, so that meant he had too as well.

Eventually, Kepner met with Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee, the hospital’s chief of plastic surgery, who offered counselling to put his mind at ease.

On May 4th, Kepner underwent the nine hour procedure which involved 21 surgeons who work simultaneously in four groups – two teams prepared the forearms, while the other two prepared the donor arms.

UPMC developed a protocol to reduce the amount of toxic anti-rejection medications Kepner must take. These medications can increase the risk for diabetes, infections and other complications.

Although Kepner has showed no signs of rejection, doctors say it could be a year or two before he gains full movement of his fingers.

While Kepner shows no sign of rejection and is making steady progress, it could be a year or two until he gains full movement of his fingers, Lee said. Kepner could be at the hospital another couple months.

He held hands with his wife Valarie on Thursday as he talked to news reporters about his recovery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he underwent the nine-hour surgery in early May

Demonstrating some exercises, Kepner struggled a bit because the muscles in his fingers are still tight. But Kepner looks forward to being able to shower and cook, explaining he became a pastry chef after retiring from the Air Force

“I want to try these hands out. I want to put them to use…
“It will really free me up and free her (Valarie) up. The independence will be nice, to get that back. And the touch and the feel. That’s the big part for me.”

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