India’s very first two double hand transplants were carried out successfully at the Amrita Hospital, Kochi, in September 2014 and January 2015, respectively. Now, just over a year later, the lives of the first two recipients are returning to a new normal. 

Three years ago, 30-year old rickshaw driver Manu was riding a train when he saw a group harassing a female passenger. He rose to confront them, and was violently pushed out of the running train. Tragically, he lost both his hands during the fall.

Abdul Rahim, also 30 years old, was a captain in Afghanistan’s Border Security Force. While on duty near the Afghanistan border, he attempted to diffuse a mine. It exploded, tearing off the lower end of both of his arms.

The idea of new hands seemed like an impossible dream for both of them: a double hand transplant had never been done in India – or anywhere in South Asia — and even if it had, the cost would have been completely out of reach.

Doctors at our own Amrita Hospital were able to make that dream come true. They made history by performing India’s first and second successful double hand transplants. Abdul Rahim waited four months in Kochi in anticipation of a suitable donor. After a traffic accident led 54-year-old T.T. Joseph to brain death, his family wanted to help another lead a full and active life and donated his organs. Manu was helped by the family of Binoy. a 24-year-old accident victim. The family agreed to donate their son’s hands to render a measure of meaning to their own heartbreaking tragedy. Both patients received their new hands from our doctors in cutting-edge medical procedures. The transplants were carried out in marathon16-hour operations by a team of 20 surgeons and 8 anesthesiologists.

Asked about the details of the operation, Dr. Mohit Sharma, Senior Plastic Surgeon, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences,  noted, “Each hand required connecting two bones, two arteries, 4 veins and about 14 tendons.” Health experts across the world closely monitored these historic operations. In October 2015, the British Medical Journal awarded its “Best Surgical Team of South Asia Award” to the Hand Transplant Team at Amrita.

After the surgery, our physiotherapy and rehabilitation teams worked with Manu and Abdul Rahim continuously for a full year. Early in his recovery, Manu was able to write a thank you note to the family of Binoy. “I am very happy!” exclaimed a delighted Manu. “After I lost my hands, I was very scared, but now I am happy that my hands have been operated on and restored.”

As of May 2016, Abdul Rahim has returned to his job in Afghanistan, and Manu, who helped Abdul Rahim with his rehabilitation, has been hired as a Transplant Assistant at Amrita Hospital, where he will help other transplant patients in the rehabilitation process.

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