Published on August 2, 2022

Ahmedabad: The delicate hands of a 26-year old woman who worked as an office executive in Ahmedabad have been transplanted in an diploma engineer in Tamil Nadu who used to run a fabrication workshop where he lost both his limbs to electric burns.

This is one of the handful of cases in India involving inter-gender hand transplants.
While Gujarat has recorded a major jump in donations of organs namely liver, kidneys, heart, and even lungs in the past couple of years, the first donation of hands was done in 2021 in Ahmedabad. Afterwards, four more donations have been made – one of the highest among Indian states in the past three years – which has given a new life to amputees in Mumbai and Chennai. Venkatesan, 24, a resident of Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu, was working at his workshop in 2018 when an instrument malfunctioned, and he got electrocuted. Both his hands were amputated to save his life in a matter of two months due to severe damage caused by the incident involving high-voltage electrical burns.

After four years, he finally felt the sensation on tip of hand – which was not his own! Thanks to a donation from an Amdavadi, Venkatesan got his hands elbow-down after four years. On Saturday, the team of surgeons were felicitated by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu in Chennai as the patient successfully completed two months with the transplanted hands.

New lease of life for Venkatesan

Dr S Selva SeethaRaman, HOD and senior consultant of plastic and reconstructive surgery
at Gleneagles Global Health City Hospital in Chennai, told TOI that the case involved several challenges.

“Despite registration with the state authority, finding a match is difficult as very few hands are donated. The surgeries involve complex procedures for both retrieval and transplant of hands which are highly time sensitive. Post-operative care for such transplants is also highly complex and specialised,” he said.

“In this case, it was also a matter of Venkatesan’s self sustenance and livelihood as the incident had rendered him completely dependent on others for his chores.

Talking about inter-gender transplant, Dr SeethaRaman said that earlier a man’s hand is also attached to a woman’s body in Mumbai. “What matters is compatibility – in a few months, the skin tone of the women’s hand attached would would change, it would grow hair even, with hormones kicking in. But it takes about a year’s time for the hand to become fully functional with the help of physiotherapy and medical intervention,” he said, adding that for the initial few months, the patient is kept on immunosuppressants to reduce the rejection of the ‘foreign body’ by body’s immune system.

Venkatesan said that the donated hands will finally pave the way for his return to work and independence.

Brain-death of Megha Khobragade, 26, at Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad on May 28 had resulted in donation of her heart, kidneys and liver along with her hands. While the hands were sent to Tamil Nadu, the heart went to a patient in Zydus Hospital, and kidneys and liver to patients in IKDRC.

“Megha was very kind-hearted and always helped others while she was alive, including our father who has chronic ailment and requires care. Through the donation, she has lived on in so many people, and she’s alwa- ys alive in our memory,” said her sister Lakshmi, adding that she appeals to all to consider organ donation whenever the medical condition allows for the same. “The body would burn, but the organs can give a new lease of life to someone. ”
Dr Rakesh Joshi, medical superintendent of Civil Hospital, said that the hospital had started the hand donation, and has got three pairs so far – the highest for any centre in the state. One of the donations was from a 14-year-old patient.

“We now have expert surgeons who can retrieve hands and a system of green corridors to send the organs to the airport for immediate airlift. Compared to other organs, the relatives are a bit reluctant for hand donation due to fear of disfigurement, but we provide prosthetic hands to ensure that the person’s appearance doesn’t get affected while taken for the last rites,” said Dr Joshi.

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