News Releases

News Releases

Louisville Composite Allograft Program’s Eighth Hand Transplant Recipient Plans to Return Home

For Immediate Release: 5/11/2012

Louisville, Ky. – Ronald Thurman, the eighth hand transplant recipient at Jewish Hospital, part of KentuckyOne Health, demonstrated his hand’s function to doctors from Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky at the 28th Annual Tri-State Hand Conference today in the Jewish Hospital Rudd Heart and Lung Center today.

Thurman is preparing to return home to Marion, Indiana this week following several months of care in Louisville, including a critical physical therapy regiment that continues to help him gain function in his new hand. He will continue physical therapy from home.

“What a wonderful opportunity this has been for me,” said Thurman. “I never dreamed I would get another hand.  Everybody has been great and I am ready to go home and start living my life with a new hand. We will forever be thankful to the Heidemann’s for Ian’s gift.”

LifeGift, a nonprofit organ procurement organization in Texas, arranged the hand donation with the family of 22 year-old Ian Heidemann.

At 56 years old, Thurman is the oldest patient to receive a transplant from the Louisville Vascularized Composite Allograft Program team made up of surgeons and researchers from the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Microsurgery, Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center, Jewish Hospital and the University of Louisville.

Joseph Kutz, M.D., partner with Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center and director of the Kleinert Institute, led a team of 24 hand surgeons and two anesthesiologists to perform Thurman’s hand transplant during a 15 ½ hour procedure on Wednesday, February 15, 2012.

“We are very pleased with Mr. Thurman’s progress at this time and are allowing him to return home,” said Kutz, co-investigator for the innovative procedure. “We are very confident that he will succeed in using his hand. Even though he is going home, he still must take care to look for any signs of rejection, particularly in the environment in which he lives.” 

“Ron continues to do remarkably well,” said Michael Marvin, M.D., director of Transplantation at Jewish Hospital, associate professor of Surgery at the University of Louisville and co-principal investigator of the composite tissue allotransplantation research project at Jewish Hospital.  Marvin oversees Thurman’s immunosuppressive drug therapy in collaboration with Rosemary Ouseph, MD, Division of Nephrology, UofL Department of Medicine, by closely monitoring him for signs of rejection and adverse reaction to medications with lab tests and biopsies.  “We will continue to monitor his medication levels and make adjustments as needed.”

Wife Cathy Thurman said, “I will never be able to thank everyone enough in Louisville for their hospitality.  Everyone here has been wonderful to me.”

Thurman is a self-employed farmer who injured his right hand in a farming accident in November 2003 when his hand was caught in a combine/auger.  His right hand was amputated at the wrist, nine inches below the elbow.  He had a low-elbow prosthesis prior to the surgery. 

The Louisville Vascularized Composite Allograft Program team pioneered the hand transplant procedure and has been performing hand transplants since 1999, the longest in the United States

Other hand transplants performed by the Louisville Vascular Composite Allograft Program are:
Matthew Scott – January 24, 1999
Gerald Fisher – February 16, 2001
Dave Savage – November 29, 2006
Dave Armstrong – July 12, 2008
Jan (Erik) Hondusky – November 24, 2008
Richard Edwards – August 24, 2010 (double hand transplant)
Donnie Rickelman – July 10, 2011

The hand transplant is sponsored by the Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research and Office of Army Research to further research in the Vascularized Composite Allograft Program.  More information about each patient, including photos and video, are available at
About Jewish Hospital
Jewish Hospital, a part of KentuckyOne Health, is an internationally renowned high-tech tertiary referral center developing leading-edge advancements in hand and microsurgery, heart and lung care, cancer care, home care, rehab medicine, sports medicine, orthopaedics, neuroscience, occupational health, organ transplantation and outpatient and primary care.  Site of the world’s first successful hand transplant, the world’s first and second successful AbioCor® Implantable Replacement Heart procedures, and world’s first trial of cardiac stem cells in chronic heart failure, the hospital is in the select group that performs heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplantation.

About the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Micro Surgery
Named in honor of Dr. Kleinert's mother, the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Micro Surgery (CMKI) is a world-renowned nonprofit education and research organization funded by the Kleinert-Kutz Endowment for Education and Research in Hand and Micro Surgery. The physicians of the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center teach the next generation of hand surgeons through CMKI’s accredited fellowship program, which is cooperative effort with the University of Louisville School of Medicine. The Fellows are fully trained plastic, orthopedic, or general surgeons from around the world who come to Louisville to get additional training in hand and micro surgery. To date, more than 1,200 physicians from 58 countries have served as Fellows. Dozens of research projects refining surgical techniques, testing new devices and pushing the frontiers of basic and clinical science in the field of hand surgery are currently underway. CMKI also provides patient rehabilitation services after surgery and patients recovery services without surgery through the Hand Therapy Center and Orthotic Care Center. For more information, please visit

About the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center
Kleinert Kutz is one of the largest hand care programs in the world, pioneering achievements in hand and microsurgery, research, therapy and orthotics. The 13 physicians of Kleinert Kutz offer expertise in orthopedic and plastic surgery and provide comprehensive care for the hand and arm. Kleinert Kutz’s significant achievements include the nation’s first five hand transplants, one of the world’s first cross-hand replantations, pioneered work in primary reconstruction using free tissue transfer and national award for research in blood flow to the nerve.  For more information, please visit or call (502) 561-4263.

About the University of Louisville
The University of Louisville is Kentucky's metropolitan research university, with 22,000 students attending classes at 11 colleges and schools on three campuses. Bordered by its many medical partners, UofL's downtown Health Sciences Center is home to more than 3,000 students pursuing degrees in health-related fields with the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Public Health and Information Sciences, as well as 14 interdisciplinary centers and institutes.




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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