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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.

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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.

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Hand Transplant Recipient's Identity Disclosed

Officials at Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center have disclosed the identity of the man who received a double hand transplant this week.

He’s 55 year old Dr. Richard Edwards, a former chiropractor from Edmond, Oklahoma.

He lost most of both hands in 2006, when he became trapped in his burning truck.

Lead surgeon Dr. Warren Breidenbach says Edwards was still in intensive care Thursday but was up and about, and both hands look good.

At a press conference after the procedure Wednesday, Breidenbach said having both hands immobilized in braces over the next six weeks will be a challenge for Edwards.

“If you’re doing a single hand transplant, you’ve still got one hand that can take care of your activities of daily living. When you’ve got both hands tied up in braces, you’re going to be paralyzed for a while,” he said.

The double hand transplant was the third in the nation and the first in Kentucky.

The 17-and-a-half hour operation began Tuesday night.