News Releases

News Releases

Jewish Hospital Hand Transplant Recipient Sees New Hand for First Time

For Immediate Release: 7/14/2011

Louisville, Kentucky – Just four days after surgery, Donnie Rickelman got a peek at his new left hand Wednesday evening as doctors unwrapped the bandages for the first time since the transplant surgery took place on Sunday, July 10, 2011 at Jewish Hospital.

Rickelman was speechless as the hand was released from the bandages. When asked later what he thought about his new left hand he said, “It’s pretty amazing.  I’m just very thankful to the donor’s family for their sacrifice.”

Joseph Kutz, M.D., partner with Kleinert Kutz & Associates, led a team of 15 surgeons to perform the hand transplant procedure at the Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center.  This is the seventh patient to receive a new hand by the Louisville team, a partnership of Jewish Hospital, Kleinert Kutz & Associates, Christine M. Kleinert Institute and University of Louisville.

Dr. Kutz and Dr. Huey Tien, also with Kleinert Kutz, removed the bandages.  Dr. Kutz said, “Donnie has extraordinary thumb motion already. He is moving his hand better than all of our other patients to date at this point and is expected to have approximately 70 percent function in the new hand within a year’s time. The nerves, however, can take 1½ years or longer to heal. We want to splint the hand today (Wednesday) and on Thursday brace it, so it will be allowed to heal as we control hand and wrist movement in therapy.”

Dr. Tien is also with Kleinert Kutz and Associates and a clinical instructor with the University of Louisville.   He said, “The hand looks very close to normal already with very little swelling and a very clean looking incision. He can already grasp a pen with his thumb and fingers.”
Michael Marvin, M.D., director of Transplantation at Jewish Hospital and professor of Surgery at the University of Louisville is the principle investigator. He is overseeing the patient immunosuppressive therapy by closely monitoring the patient for signs of rejection and adverse reaction to medications with lab tests and biopsies.  Marvin commented, “We will be using a standard regimen of medications while using other medications as needed to reduce complications. We are basing our combination of drugs on our established experience with solid organ transplantation such as liver, kidney and pancreas.”
Rickelman’s wife Kelli provided a message to the donor family as well saying, “I am so appreciative of the donor family’s generosity during this difficult time for them.  Thank you for giving my husband a better quality of life so that he can do all the many things he wants to do as a two-handed person again.”
Rickelman continues his recovery at Jewish Hospital out of the Intensive Care Unit. He is expected to be in the hospital for about a week and will remain in Louisville for the next three months.

The 36-year-old Linton, Indiana resident injured both hands in a factory accident 13 years ago. This left him with a partial thumb and good wrist movement on the left hand.

The Composite Tissue Allotransplantation program is a partnership of physicians, researchers and healthcare providers at the Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center, Kleinert Kutz and Associates, the Christine M. Kleinert Institute and the University of Louisville. The group developed the pioneering hand transplant procedure and has performed a total of eight, including one double hand transplant, since 1999.  Indiana Organ Procurement Organization in coordination with the Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates arranged the hand donation for the team’s hand transplant procedure.

The hand transplant is sponsored by the Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research and Office of Army Research to further research in the composite tissue allotransplantation program.

Patient and physician information, photos, video and b-roll are available at and

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Barbara Mackovic
Senior Manager

Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare Kleinert Institute Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center University of Louisville School of Medicine