This past Sunday, Jeff Kepner of Augusta, GA got the call he’d been waiting for.
He and his wife, Valarie packed Jeff’s bags and headed for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, for a very specialized operation that is taking place even as I write this.
Jeff is the country’s first-ever double hand transplant recipient.
About 10 years ago, Jeff lost both hands and both feet as a result of a horrible bacterial infection, and he underwent a series of specialized tests to see if he qualified. Then, even after it was determined that he’d be a good candidate, they still had to wait for a match.
Sunday, they got one. “He’s in surgery now, and I just have to wait 20 hours,” Valarie said earlier today. “No news is good news at this point.”
Even if this first surgery goes well, Jeff is still not completely in the clear. Assuming it does, he will need to get an infusion of bone marrow from the donor to help improve the odds of the transplanted hands being accepted by Jeff’s body as “compatible tissue.”
Here’s wishing Jeff and Valarie all the best. I’ll give you an update on his condition in tomorrow’s blog. Until then, keep him in your thoughts and prayers.
PS: Just in case you’re wondering, the first American hand transplant came in 1999 on a New Jersey man, who lost his hand 14 years earlier in a fireworks accident.