For the first time in Asia, an upper arm double hand transplant surgery was successfully conducted on a young girl at the Amrita Institute of Medical Science (AIMS), Kochi.
19-year-old Shreya Siddanagowda, who became the first recipient of the rare transplant surgery, had lost both of her hands following a road accident last year.
A chemical engineering student at Manipal Institute of Technology, she had received the arms from Sachin, a B.Com final year student of Ernakulam’s Rajagiri College. The young man had been declared brain-dead after falling victim to a bike accident that resulted in a fatal head injury.
The 13-hour transplantation was undertaken by a team of 20 surgeons and 16 anaesthetists headed by Dr Subrahmania Iyer, who is the head of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Department at AIMS.
The accident had taken place in September last year when the bus taken by Shreya to her college from Pune overturned and crushed her arms.
By the time she could make it to a hospital, her arms were rendered useless and had to be amputated at the elbow.
“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,” Dr Iyer told The New Indian Express.
Reportedly, this is the first time in the world that a male donor’s arms have been transplanted into a female recipient. “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,” an elated Shreya said.
In fact, even when the doctors were uncertain about the male-to-female transplant, it was Shreya who had no qualms about the gender of the donor, as long as she was receiving one.
Fortunately, her body has not shown any signs of rejection of the transplanted organs. However, she will have to take lifelong medication so that her body does not reject the hands, at any point in time.
Currently undergoing routine exercises for her fingers, wrists, and shoulders, Shreya will start with elbow movements in upcoming weeks. According to Dr Mohit Sharma, the senior plastic surgeon who played a significant role in the surgery, she will regain 85 per cent movement in the next one-and-half years.
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Shreya is the only daughter of Suma Nuggihalli and Fakirgowda Siddnagowder, a senior manager at Tata Motors, who live in Pune.
Testing times lie ahead for the young girl, for it can get quite arduous for patients to get used to the weight of transplanted hands on the upper arm. The 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 the parents supportively.