Double hand transplant patient saved from organ rejection after ‘world first’ treatment

Experts and ministers urge people to donate plasma after first ever treatment for hand tranplant patient

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Thursday 09 May 2024 04:26 BST
Double hand tranplant patient recovering after surgery

A woman who received a double hand transplant has received a ground-breaking new treatment which prevented her body from rejecting the organs.

Tanya Shepherd, 48, the UK’s first female recipient of a double hand transplant, underwent a treatment in which the plasma in the blood is removed to purge the body of antibodies which drive rejection.

Ms Shepard, from Hull, was suffering from Antibody Mediated Rejection (AMR) – a type of rejection where the immune system identifies the tissue as foreign and produces antibodies attacking the donor organ.

She said: “I’m so grateful to the teams at the Therapeutic Apheresis Service, the wider NHS Blood and Transplant and to all of those generous blood and plasma donors that meant this treatment was available to me.

“Rejection is a real and scary risk for any transplant recipient, but it is reassuring to know that there are treatments that can help – I’m honoured to be the first to trial the plasma exchange for AMR in hand transplants.”

“As always, I encourage people to sign up to become an organ donor and to donate blood and/or plasma if they are able – I’m eternally grateful to those who already have, who have helped me on my journey.”

According to NHS Blood and Transplant which carried out the treatment in Leeds, it is the first time this procedure has been used to treat organ rejection in a hand transplant patient.

Charlotte Blacklock-Lumb, Lead Nurse at TAS, Leeds, said: “This is the first time that we at TAS have used plasma exchange as a treatment for AMR in a double hand transplant patient and we are delighted to be able to support Tanya in this way. We worked in close conjunction with the hand transplant team, led by Professor Simon Kay, to monitor Tanya as she underwent her initial run of treatment.

“As ever, we are grateful to the many people who donate both blood and plasma and allow treatments like these to take place.”

Health Minister, Andrea Leadsome, says: “Organ rejection is a real risk for transplant recipients and can have devastating consequences.

“If you’re eligible, please consider signing up to become an organ, blood and plasma donor, to support the development of these lifesaving treatments.”

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