News Releases

News Releases

Jerry Fisher, nation's second recipient of a hand transplant, make progress, gains feeling in fingertips

For Immediate Release: 11/14/2001

(Louisville, Kentucky) The nation's second recipient of a hand transplant, Gerald Fisher, returned to Jewish Hospital in Louisville yesterday for a routine check up by his physicians at Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center and University of Louisville. Fisher received a hand transplant on February 16-17, 2001 following a 13-hour surgical procedure.

"I am very pleased with Jerry's (Fisher) progress," said lead hand surgeon Warren C. Breidenbach, M.D., Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center. "He has sensation in the fingertips which means regrowth of nerve fibers has taken place as expected. When tapped on the fingertips, he has a tingling sensation. He also has sensation in the palm and back of his hand. Jerry's range of motion is about the same as it was at three months, except his movement is much smoother and flexion or bending of all four fingers has improved. His forearm and wrist motions have also improved which makes picking up larger objects easier."

"The doctors are happy with the function I've gained so far," said Fisher. "Dr. Breidenbach told me I will continue to gain strength and movement in my hand and fingers for up to five years following surgery, but I plan to exceed his expectations."

"Jerry has continued to have frequent episodes of mild rejection demonstrated by intermittent rashes, which are controlled by topical medication," said transplant surgeon Darla K. Granger, M.D., University of Louisville. "The swelling of the hand and arm has been resolved even though his is taking less medication. Dr. Granger also added, "Jerry felt the numbing medication being injected into his skin tissue before performing a routine biopsy, which is a good sign of feeling in the hand. The biopsy results showed no sign of rejection."

In 1996, Fisher, a self-employed contractor, underwent amputation of his non-dominant left hand at the wrist as a result of a fireworks accident involving a three-inch mortar. Prior to the transplant, he used a cable hook prosthesis.

Fisher, a husband and father of three boys, spent three months in Louisville following the hand transplant being closely monitored by his Louisville physicians and participated in hand therapy sessions six-days-a-week. Since returning home to Jackson, Michigan, he continues therapy sessions at the University of Michigan Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation two-days-a-week. Fisher is expected to return for a one-year check up in early 2002.

The transplant procedure was performed at Jewish Hospital and included an 18-member hand transplant surgical team from Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center and University of Louisville, as well as, a five-member team from Anesthesiology Associates. Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, an organ procurement organization, coordinated the donation of the hand. The group of surgeons that performed the procedure also performed the nation's first hand transplant on Matthew Scott nearly three years ago.

Together, Jewish Hospital, University of Louisville and Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center have supported the research initiatives of this innovative procedure along with other procedures to improve the quality of life for patients.

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