Brit with unusual rash is the first in the world to cure it with a DOUBLE hand transplant
Steven Gallagher, 48, had surgery after being diagnosed with scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that causes scarring of the skin and internal organs 13 years ago.
A Briton has described getting a ‘new breath’ after receiving a double hand transplant.
Steven Gallagher, 48, was diagnosed with scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that causes scarring of the skin and internal organs after he developed an unusual rash about 13 years ago.
The tiler ended up having to give up his job as his hands clenched into two fists and he lived on strong painkillers.
Now he has joined a small number of patients around the world who have undergone the complex transplant procedure which carries a risk of the body rejecting the new hands.
Mr Gallagher, from Dreghorn in North Ayrshire, said: ‘My hands started to close, it got to the point where it was basically two fists, my hands were unusable, I couldn’t do anything but lift two-handed things.
“I couldn’t catch anything, it was a struggle getting dressed and things like that.
“My wife and I talked about it and agreed to go. I might end up losing my hands anyway, so it was just a matter of letting them know I was going.
Mr Gallagher had to undergo a psychological assessment to ensure he was prepared for the prospect of a transplant.
He then underwent the 12-hour operation in mid-December 2021 after a suitable donor was found.
The Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust hand transplant team, which carried out the operation, said it was the first time in the world that hand transplantation had been used to replace hands with scleroderma in last phase.
Mr Gallagher said: ‘After the operation I woke up and it was quite surreal because before I had my hands and then when I woke up from the operation I still had hands , so in my head, I never really lost hands.
“These hands are amazing, everything happened so fast. From the moment I woke up from the operation, I was able to move them.
He added: “It gave me a new breath of life. I still find things difficult at the moment but things are improving every week with the physio and the occupational therapists, everything is slowly improving.
“The pain is the big deal. The pain before the operation was horrible, I had so much pain relief it was unbelievable, but now I have no pain at all.
More than five months after the operation, his condition is improving and although he cannot perform highly dexterous tasks like buttoning, he can do things like pet his dog, turn on the tap and fill a glass of water.
He now hopes to return to work once his hands have improved sufficiently and is very grateful to the person and family of the donor who made the transplant possible.
The surgery involved a team of 30 professionals from many disciplines.
Professor Simon Kay, from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: ‘This operation has been a huge team effort with input from our colleagues here in Leeds and Glasgow.
“Having a hand transplant is very different from a kidney or other organ transplant because hands are something we see every day and we use them in so many ways.
“For this reason, we and our expert clinical psychologists assess and prepare patients, to be sure that they will be able to cope psychologically with the constant reminder of their transplant and the risk that the body will reject the transplanted hands.”