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Indiana Man Is Jewish Hospital’s Eighth Hand Transplant Recipient

An Indiana man has become the eighth person to receive a hand transplant at Louisville’s Jewish Hospital.

Fifty-six year old Ronald Thurman of Marion received a new right hand in a 15-and-a-half hour procedure that ended early this morning.

The donor hand came from a 22 year old Texas man who lost his life in a car accident.

Surgical team member Dr. Joseph Kutz says Thurman is doing well and will soon be outfitted with a brace to aid his physical therapy.

Kutz says each of these procedures presents a unique challenge.

“In this case, he has muscles, but he doesn’t have all of them, and we have to do as we have to do in many cases, utilize muscles that the Good Lord put in there for one job, He also gave us the knowledge to move it over to do a second job,” he said.

Thurman lost his right hand in a farming accident in 2003.

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Local News

Two More Hand Transplants Slated For Early 2012

The leader of the hand transplant program at Louisville’s Jewish Hospital says two more procedures have been approved and will likely be performed early next year.

Dr. Joseph Kutz says the first of the two transplants could take place in January or February.

Seven patients have received hand transplants since the Jewish Hospital program was launched in 1999

Kutz says it’s unclear right now exactly how many more operations will take place next year.

“It depends a lot upon finances, because as you know this is experimental, and is supported by the services, first the Navy then the Army. And with their own budget problems, it’s a wait-and-see as far as any additional finances down the line,” Kutz said.

The most recent transplant recipient is Donnie Rickelman (pictured with Dr. Kutz) of Linton, Indiana, who received a new left hand three months ago and is doing well.

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Local News Next Louisville

Indiana Man Receives Hand Transplant At Jewish Hospital

Doctors say the latest recipient of a hand transplant at Louisville’s Jewish Hospital is recovering and being prepared for physical therapy.

Donnie Rickelman of Linton, Indiana, about a two hour drive northwest of Louisville, received a new left hand Sunday.

Rickelman’s left hand was partially amputated in a factory accident 13 years ago. The mishap with a steel splitter also crushed his right hand.

The transplanted left hand, from an anonymous donor, also came from Indiana.

“At the present time his hand is working well,” said Dr. Joseph Kutz, who led the 16-member surgical team.

“The reason it works well is because the attachment to the muscles is his own muscles, and his muscles have always been working, so it’s just a matter of putting the endpoint, which is the hand, on the end of the muscles, and the muscles are working well,” Kutz said at a Tuesday morning press conference.

Kutz says Rickelman will remain in Louisville for at least three months for intensive physical therapy and monitor his tolerance to anti-rejection drugs.

This was the eighth hand transplant performed at Jewish since 1999 and the first since the departure of Dr. Warren Breidenbach, who led the transplant team and is now practicing in Arizona.

Dr. Kutz says the hand transplant program remains strong and there could be another two operations performed over the next six months or so, but finding donors remains difficult.

“It’s easier to get a donor who will give up a kidney or heart or liver because when they’re in a casket, nobody knows those parts are missing.  But if you’re in a casket and have the person exposed, the hands are in the casket, so its very difficult for families to give up the hand, unless they’re going to cremate the body,” he said.