Chris Pollock — Hand Transplant Recipient
It was November 2008. Chris Pollock, a national guardsman from Harrisburg, Pa., was helping a farmer friend with the late fall harvest.
Out in the fields, a stray ear of corn lay waiting to enter the corn-picking machine. While trying to push the corn in, Chris’ hands and arm became lodged in the machine's chains.
After a half hour spent yelling for help, a neighbor heard him and called an ambulance.
He was air-lifted to a local hospital, but the damage to his limbs was done. Chris’ right arm was amputated to four inches below the elbow and his left hand at the wrist.
In the year that followed, Chris slowly relearned how to live his life without hands, but when he became aware of a new study in hand transplantation at UPMC, he was interested.
Chris spent a week in Pittsburgh undergoing testing to determine if he qualified for the surgery. He did, and was placed on the candidate waiting list.
On February 5, 2010, Chris received the call. Surgeons had found a match.
After 11 hours of surgery by 21 surgical specialists, he became the second bilateral hand transplant recipient and the first above-the-elbow hand transplant recipient in the United States.
In the months since, Chris has had to, yet again, relearn the basics. But this time it's different.
- Sensation is returning to the transplanted limbs. He can feel hot and cold, or if an object is smooth or prickly.
- His range of motion and fine motor skills are returning, too. He shook the hands of his son and daughter when they graduated from high school in the spring of 2010.
- And Chris will continue to see progress in the coming months and years, as the nerves grow and muscles become stronger.
Occupational therapy following hand transplantation is hard work, requiring hours of intensive exercises each day to achieve the small milestones that add up to large ones over time.
Because of his commitment and drive, Chris is once again independent, spending his time on favorite activities — like getting his Cobra Mustang ready for the day he is cleared to drive — and new interests, which include spreading a message of hope to other amputees.
Note: Chris' results may not be representative of all similar cases.