KOCHI: Asia’s first upper arm double hand transplant was conducted at the Amrita Institute of Medical Science (AIMS) here on Shreya Siddanagowda, a 19-year-old chemical engineering student of Manipal Institute of Technology, who lost both her hands in a road mishap last year.
The donor was Sachin, a 20-year-old BCom final year student of Ernakulam’s Rajagiri College. He had been declared brain-dead after suffering a fatal head injury in a motorcycle accident the other day. His parents readily agreed to donate his hands and other organs for transplant.
Shreya is the only daughter of Suma Nuggihalli and Fakirgowda Siddnagowder, a senior manager at Tata Motors, Pune. In September last year, while she was returning via road from Pune to her college near Mangaluru, Shreya’s hands got crushed when the bus she was travelling in overturned. She was rushed to a hospital where both her arms had to be amputated at the elbow.
It took 20 surgeons and a 16-member anaesthetic team led by Dr Subrahmania Iyer, head, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Department, AIMS, 13 hours to complete the transplantation.
“There was a lot of complexity involved. In such operations, we have to accurately identify and connect various nerves, muscles, tendons, and arteries which is challenging. In Shreya’s case, both transplants were done in the middle of the upper arm. Only nine such transplants have been conducted in the world till now,” said Dr Iyer.Shreya’s body has accepted the transplanted hands. Still, she will be on lifelong medication so that her body does not reject the organ.
“Shreya is currently undergoing a regime of movements for her fingers, wrists and shoulders. Elbow movements might start in a couple of weeks. She will regain 85 per cent movement in the next one-and-half years. Even before the surgery was set, we told Shreya achieving 100 per cent result for the transplant was not possible as of now. We also informed her it will take at least two years to achieve 85 per cent arm movement. She agreed. We believe her resilience will win,” said Dr Mohit Sharma, senior plastic surgeon who played a leading role in the surgery.
The next step is rehabilitation. It is also quite difficult because the patient has to bear the weight of the transplanted hands on the upper arm. Shreya and her family will be staying close to the hospital for routine check-ups and rehabilitation sessions. “She is more in tune with the doctors here. They know her medical history and will help her the most. Crucial days lie for her ahead, but we will be with her all the way,” said Suma, Shreya’s mother with Shreya’s father Fakirgowda Siddnagowder by her side.
On the transplant, Shreya said, “When I heard there is hand transplant facility in India, I finally felt my disability is only temporary. It helped a lot. Hopefully, in the next couple of years, I will lead a near normal life”.
Incidentally, this is the first time in the world a male donor’s hand has been transplanted on a female recipient. “It was Shreya who removed our doubts on the matter. She was ready to receive the arm from a male donor,” Dr Mohit said.