Strep Infection patient Jeff Kepner gets his hand back

May 9th, 2009 - 7:34 pm ICT by GD  

A severe strep infection complication had cost Jeff Kepner both his hands and feet 10 years ago. When his wife came to know of reports about hand transplants being made possible at UPMC she saw some hope, but her husband was skeptical.

Valerie says that, “We definitely weren’t on the same page. And I can understand why, because he was the one in the hospital for two months before and had gone through all this when he was originally sick… I knew he was thinking of all the things that he was going to have to go through again.” However with Valerie’s persuasion, her husband was ready to go in for a consultation with the doctors. It would involve a huge decision. Firstly, it involved a major surgery, and secondly there was the possibility of rejection. It was not a life saving but rather an elective operation.

On 4th of May 4th the operation was conducted under the chief of Plastic surgery at UPMC, Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee. It was a successful operation. However, 4 days is too early to be making conclusions. The donor was a 24 year old male from Penn State. Thus Jeff has a set of younger hands, with a matched skin tone. Dr. Lee explained that, “We typically put the bones together first with some metal plates, and then we do the muscles and tendons, followed by the blood vessels, and eventually the nerves and the skin,” but, in this case a slightly different strategy was used to prevent rejection. At present Jeff is in intensive care. He is however very much awake and aware of what is going on.

Doctors expect Jeff to live a comparatively normal life again, but that will take some time. Valarie hopes that some day Jeff will be able to do all the simple things of daily life by himself, and perhaps even go back to his profession as a pastry chef.

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