Local News

Hand Transplant Recipient Going Home, Will Meet Donor’s Father

The eighth person to receive a new hand under Jewish Hospital’s transplant program is preparing to return home this week.

At 56, Ronald Thurman is the program’s oldest transplant patient. He lost his right hand eight years ago in a farming accident and received his new hand in February.

It came from 22 year old Ian Heidemann (below) of Fort Worth, Texas, who died in a traffic accident. He had directed his family to arrange the donation of not only his hand, but several organs to patients in need.

Before he heads home to Marion, Indiana, this week, Ronald Thurman and his wife, Cathy, plan to meet Ian’s father.

“He’s in Louisville for business. He just happens to be here. And he said he wanted (to meet us), we’re coming to the end of my therapy, my stay here, so we’ve kind of made a decision to meet him. It going to be probably a very emotional thing there,” Thurman said in an interview.

Thurman says his new hand is functioning well and he’s eager to resume farming. He’ll undergo physical therapy at home and come to Louisville once a month for checkups.

(Family photo of Ian Heidemann from

Local News

Indiana Man Recieves Hand Transplant at Jewish Hospital

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

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

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

Leaders of the surgical team will hold a media briefing about the procedure this afternoon.

Local News

Physical Therapy Paying Off For Hand Transplant Recipient

Three months after receiving a new left hand at Louisville’s Jewish Hospital, Donnie Rickelman says his recovery is going well.

The Linton, Indiana man was back at the hospital today for a checkup, and showed how far he’s progressed by wrapping a Christmas gift.

Rickelman says he’s always been comfortable with his transplanted hand.

“From day one, it’s felt like it was part of me. I’m great. It feels good, I’m happy with it,” he said.

Rickelman lost his left hand in a workplace accident. He was the seventh person to receive a transplant at Jewish Hospital.

Lead surgeon Dr. Joseph Kutz says two more transplants will likely be performed early next year.

Local News Next Louisville

Transplant Recipient Getting Accustomed To New Left Hand

The Indiana man who received a hand transplant at Louisville’s Jewish Hospital earlier this month is speaking publicly for the first time about the procedure.

Thirty-six year old Donnie Rickelman lost his left hand in a factory accident thirteen years ago.

His new left hand, transplanted July 10, came from an undisclosed male donor from Rickelman’s home state of Indiana.

Rickelman says he already has some movement in his new hand and has begun long days of physical therapy that will continue for many months to come.

“I’d just like to do things normally again. When you lose a hand, everything changes, how you dress, brush your teeth, deodorant, the whole bit. I just want to able to be normal again,” he said.

Rickelman told WFPL Wednesday that he hopes to go back to work somewhere when his new hand is functional. He’s been on disability since his accident.

Donnie Rickelman is the seventh person to receive a new hand under the transplant program launched by Jewish Hospital and the University of Louisville in 1999.

“It’s very overwhelming and happy,” he said. “It’s been a long road and to know that you finally got what you’re after is a good thing.”

Click below to hear our entire interview with Donnie Rickelman:

Audio MP3

Here and Now

Today on Here and Now

Thirteen days remain until August 2, the date after which the US will default on debt payments. The so-called “Gang of Six” deficit-reduction plan that emerged on Capitol Hill yesterday is gaining steam. We’ll ask if they can reach a deal on time.

Around 5.6 million mothers stay at home, and for many, getting back into the workforce is a struggle because employers balk at gaps on resumes. Returnships might help. Sometimes paid, sometimes not – they help get people back into the workforce.

Coal ash is raising health and environmental concerns for residents in southwest Louisville. We’ll have the first of a three-part series on this byproduct of burning coal.

And ten days ago, Donnie Rickelman of Linton, Indiana underwent a hand transplant at Louisville’s Jewish Hospital. He’s the seventh recipient of a new hand under the transplant program launched in 1999 in conjunction with the University of Louisville. We’ll talk with Rickleman about his progress.

Local News Next Louisville

Jerry Fisher Marks Tenth Anniversary Of Hand Transplant

The recipient of the nation’s second hand transplant returned Tuesday to Louisville’s Jewish Hospital to mark the tenth anniversary of the operation.

Jerry Fisher of Michigan had lost his left hand in a fireworks accident.

Fisher suffered a few setbacks following the 13-hour procedure, but says he’s doing well now.

“I’ve been asked, would I do it again, and I would. It was well worth it. And I can applaud just like everybody else now. I’m very thankful to be able to do that,” he said.

Fisher was joined at the celebration by Matt Scott, who was the first in the U.S. to receive a hand transplant, and Dr. Rich Edwards, who underwent a double hand transplant in August in Louisville.

(Pictured, from left: Matt Scott, Jerry Fisher and Dr. Rich Edwards)

Local News

Hand Transplant Recipient Recovering Faster Than Expected

by Graham Shelby

In all of human history, only a handful of people have had the experience Richard Edwards has every day: Looking at the end of his arm and seeing someone else’s hand.

Edwards is the recipient of only the third double-hand transplant ever. Surgeons performed the operation at Jewish Hospital in August.

Edwards says if you were looking at one of his arms, this is what you’d see: “You’ll see a scar all the way around that forearm. You’ll see a lighter skinned – and hairy – a lot longer hair on that donated hand.” His new hands came from an anonymous organ donor. Edwards says he hopes to someday meet the family of the man whose hands he received.

Edwards suffered severe burns and lost several fingers in a car fire. Since the operation, he’s made significant progress in physical therapy. He can extend and bend his fingers, brush his teeth and open a round doorknob. He has aspirations, too. “I’d like to be able to touch my wife’s skin – and feel it,” he says. “I’d like to be able to pull the trigger on a gun. I love shooting pistols. I love going hunting.”

His doctors have said they may clear him to go home to Oklahoma for Christmas.

Local News

VIDEO: Hand Transplant Recipient Discusses Therapy, Progress

by Sheila Ash

The nation’s third double hand transplant recipient spoke for the second time Tuesday.

Oklahoman Rich Edwards was injured in a fire four years ago. His arms, hands, back and face were severely burned, leaving him with very little function of his hands. His transplant was less than two months ago. He says he’s now undergoing several hours of therapy everyday.

“We pick out one finger and move the entire finger curl it up as much as possible, extend it as far as possible. And then just choose a portion, the outer third, one third tip of that finger and see if I can bend it and extend it and then the middle third of that finger,” he says.

Edwards’s progress was delayed last month when doctors performed a second surgery to remove blood clots from his right hand. Because of this, Edwards has more mobility in his left hand, but he’s confident his right hand will catch up.

Edwards will remain in Louisville through the end of the year to receive therapy at Jewish Hospital, where his transplant was done.

Local News

Hand Transplant Recipient Doing Well After Second Surgery

By Sheila Ash

Doctors at Louisville’s Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center provided an update Monday on the progress being made by double hand transplant recipient Rich Edwards.

“It may have been the donated hand had either an injured or an abnormal blood supply.  Or it could have been Mr. Edwards own forearms that were scarred and burned badly enough that they didn’t help give a good environment for one of the arteries,”

Breidenbach says Edwards (in photo from September 2) is doing fine.  Doctors will monitor the right hand for another two weeks and keep it immobile so blood flow won’t be disrupted.  Meanwhile, Edwards’ left hand is progressing well and will continue to receive therapy as scheduled.

Edwards lost the use of both his hands in a truck fire four years ago.  He received his donor hands in late August.

Local News

Transplant Recipient Talks About New Hands

Story and Photos By Sheila Ash

The nation’s third double hand transplant recipient and his team of doctors gathered Thursday to discuss his surgery and progress. It was Rich Edwards’ first public remarks since last week’s operation.

Audio MP3

Sitting next to his wife Cindy, Rich Edwards was upbeat and positive just over a week after undergoing a 17-and-a-half hour surgery to replace both of his hands. Edwards, a former chiropractor, became emotional as he spoke about going back to work and regaining the feeling in his hands.

“I would love to go back to chiropractic. I’m hoping that I can. And I know that if I can’t get back to chiropractic at least I can start doing things again that I never used to be able to do. One of my favorite senses was my sense of touch and I love to hold my wife’s hand, feel her skin and I want to do that again,” he said.

Edwards lost the use of his hands in a fire four years ago. He says he’s very grateful to the donor family. Doctors at Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center say Edwards is doing well enough to leave the hospital Friday.      

Edwards is from Oklahoma, but will remain in Louisville for at least the next three months for therapy.