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Man Receives Hand Transplant After Losing His in a Meat Grinder 50 Years Ago


A 54-year-old man who has lived almost his entire life without a left hand has become the first person in North Carolina to undergo a hand transplant, 50 years after he lost it.

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Rene Chavez of Laredo, Texas, has lived most of his life without his dominant left hand.

Chavez lost his hand when he was 4 years old after inserting it into a meat grinder. He was unable to pull it out before his older brother accidently turned the machine on, according to a Duke Medicine press conference.

Though he has learned to do tasks like riding a motorcycle as anyone else would, he toyed with the idea of getting a hand transplant three years ago, when the procedure became more accessible and successful.

Two weeks ago, Chavez became the first person in North Carolina to successfuly receive a hand transplant. He is also one of less than 90 people worldwide to have undergone the surgery.

Dr. Linda Cendales, who performed the first U.S. hand transplant in 1999, led a team of 17 surgeons in the 12-hour process.

“This is an exciting time for our patient, his family, and Duke,” Cendales said in a press release. “The patient is doing very well and is recovering from his surgery. He is excited about the possibilities that await him as he continues his rehabilitation.”

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Though doctors said it will be difficult to tell whether the transplant was completely successful for another year and a half, Chavez said he is already begining to gain sensation in his new hand.

"Physically and mentally, I feel well," Chavez said through his translater.

Though Chavez has months of intense physical therapy in his future, he said he looks forward to relearning how to live with a left hand.

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