Louisville, Ky. – Ronald Thurman, a Marion, Indiana farmer, became the latest patient to receive a hand transplant recipient at Jewish Hospital, part of KentuckyOne Health, on Wednesday, February 15, 2012.
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 Jewish Hospital, the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Microsurgery, Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center, and the University of Louisville. He is recovering in the intensive care unit at Jewish Hospital.
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 the hand transplant during a 15 ½ hour procedure.
“It is a team effort,” Kutz said. “We worked in two-hour shifts throughout the night. We had a plan and we’re very happy as he seems to be doing well.”
Kutz said Thurman will likely have his new hand fitted for braces on Friday, February 17, 2012 and begin physical therapy in a couple of days. He will remain under care in Louisville for several months.
“His hand looks good,” Kutz said. “Of course, we are a long way from knowing how well it will function, but he is doing well.”
Thurman is a self-employed farmer. He 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.
Dr. Kutz, and Michael Marvin, M.D., director of Transplantation at Jewish Hospital and associate professor of Surgery at the University of Louisville are the co-investigators for the innovative procedure.
Rosemary Ouseph, M.D., director of Clinical Transplantation and professor of Medicine for the University of Louisville, manages the patient’s immunosuppressive drug therapy, along with Dr. Marvin.
Ouseph said Thurman is being treated with a combination of medications, including Thymoglobulin, Prograf, Myfortic and steroids.
“Early on, all of the hand transplant patients have had episodes of rejection,” said Ouseph. “We will continue to watch for rejection, monitor drug levels and adjust the patient’s medications accordingly.”
Kutz said the team had been working with Thurman and listed him for a hand transplant about four weeks ago.
“It is because of donor families that we are able to do these surgeries and to give individuals the gift of two, functioning hands,” said Jenny Jones, director of education for Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates. If we didn’t have our donor families, we wouldn’t have any transplantation.”
Kentuckians can join the Kentucky Donor Registry online at www.donatelifeky.org. People who live outside of the state of Kentucky can visit www.donatelife.net for state specific donor registry information.
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. LifeGift in Texas, in coordination with the Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, arranged the hand donation for the team’s eighth patient’s hand transplant procedure.
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
Patient and physician information, photography and video are available at www.handtransplant.com.
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.