UCLA's first hand transplant patient adapting well to new hand

Apr. 21, 2011

26-year-old single mom looking forward to doing the 'little things' again

Six-and-a-half weeks after receiving the first hand transplant in the western United States, Emily Fennell is becoming so accustomed to her new right hand that she barely remembers when she didn't have one.

The 26-year-old from Yuba City, Calif., underwent transplant surgery at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, a 14-hour procedure that began just before midnight on March 4 and concluded at 2:30 p.m. the next day.

"It has been surreal to see that I have a hand again, and be able to wiggle my fingers. My 6-year-old daughter has never seen me with a hand," said Fennell, a single mother. "She looked at it, touched it and said it was 'cool.' "

Fennell was discharged from the hospital April 8 and will continue to stay near UCLA for two months for monitoring and occupational therapy.

"The patient's recovery from the procedure has gone extremely well, both psychologically and physically," said Dr. Kodi Azari, surgical director of the UCLA Hand Transplantation Program and an associate professor of orthopaedic surgery and plastic surgery.

"She is making the emotional transition from calling it 'the' hand to 'my' hand," Azari said. "From a surgical standpoint, we achieved a good connection of the nerves and blood vessels, and the balance between the palm and back-of-the-hand tendons appears to be pristine."

Learn more at www.handtransplant.ucla.edu
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