Medical Minute 11-15: Hand Transplant for a Soldier

By: Melissa Medalie Email
By: Melissa Medalie Email

Twenty-five year old Josh Maloney's life changed in an instant. The former Marine Corporal lost his right hand during a military training accident.

"When it happens the entire world turns upside down because you never realize how much you use your hands," said Maloney.

Josh was the sixth person in the U.S. to receive a hand transplant. Doctors attached a donor hand above the right wrist during a complex surgery connecting muscles, tendons, blood vessels, nerves and bone. But in Josh's case doctors also took one other major, preventive step.

"During that time, we not only do the hand transplant, but we infuse the bone marrow from the same donor," said W.P. Andrew Lee, M.D., U.P.M.C., Hand Transplant Surgeon.

Doctor Andrew Lee says infusing bone marrow helps the patient's body adjust to the donor tissue and cells and lowers the amount of anti-rejection meds a patient needs. That medication is toxic and can cause cancer.

Josh says he was willing to take the risk for the chance at a normal life.

"If I die at 65 because I had cancer, but I lived a full life with two hands, and did everything I could, and taught my children everything I could, I'd be okay with that," said Josh Maloney.

The nerves from Josh's arm have grown one inch a month and now extend into his new hand. A soldier who takes advantage of life's simple joys - using both hands for a game of catch.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT: Dan FoustUPMC Transplant Coordinator(412) 647 - 9207foustde@upmc.edu


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