First man to receive double hand transplant in UK writes thank you letter

'It's so wonderful,' says Chris King. 'We can do some great things in this country'

Benjamin Kentish
Thursday 06 April 2017 20:47
Double-hand transplant patient writes letter thanking surgeon

The first person in the UK to have a double hand transplant has picked up a pen and written a letter to his surgeon to thank him for performing the life-changing operation.

Chris King, 57, said he had been getting on “fantastically” since undergoing the pioneering surgery last July. Being able to write the letter was one of the highlights of his nine-month recovery, he added.

He also enjoyed clapping for his favourite sports teams, Leeds United and Leeds Rhinos, and pouring a pint of ale.

Mr King was only the second person in the UK to have a hand transplant when he underwent surgery at a specialist unit at Leeds General Infirmary last July. He was the first to have both hands replaced.

"It's been going fantastically”, he said. “I can make a fist, I can hold a pen, I can do more or less the same functions as I could with my original hands. There are still limitations but I'm getting back to the full Chris again."

He lost both his hands, apart from the thumbs, in an accident involving a metal pressing machine at his workplace in Doncaster four years ago. The accident almost killed him but doctors were able to save enough tissue to make a transplant possible.

He is now able to perform a range of everyday tasks, including writing, making a cup of tea and gardening, and is progressing faster than doctors expected.

Mr King said his next aim is to be able to tie his own shoelaces and button up his shirt. He has already managed to undo them.

"Everything's just progressing and it's bigger strides too that I'm making – bigger than I thought I'd ever be doing”, he said. "I think that will be the icing on the cake when I can do my laces, and I don't think that's far off."

Mr King, who refers to his hands as “my boys”, thanked the family of his donor for their “wonderful gift” and encouraged people to sign up to become organ donors.

"It's so wonderful," he said. “We can do some great things in this country. If only we can push it a bit more and don't be afraid to be a donor."

"I don't really think of my hands, I just think of what I'm going to do next," he added. "That's back to me doing that again. That's why it feels so good and why there's a smile on my face.”

Mr King said his first aim after his operation was to pour a pint of his favourite Yorkshire ale, Timothy Taylor's, from a bottle.

"I did enjoy it”, he said “It tasted sweeter because of what I had done. It was a little mini-celebration, just for me."

He was treated by consultant plastic surgeon Professor Simon Kay, who has performed the three hand transplants that have taken place in the UK to date.

The first patient, Mark Cahill, had a single hand replaced while the third, unnamed, patient had a double transplant.

Mr King and Mr Cahill have become friends and doctors hope they will soon be joined by other patients as the procedure becomes more common.

Mr King said he does not hide his hands when he goes out and does not mind when children ask him about them.

"I had a life-changing accident. That changed into a life changing operation which brought me back. I'm not worried about the future.

"I've heard it said that you can't look at life through rose-coloured glasses. You can."

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