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.
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.”
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.