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Indian painter gets brain-dead woman's hands in rare bilateral hand transplant

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Doctors in Delhi, India, successfully performed the city's first bilateral hand transplant on a 45-year-old painter who lost both hands in a horrific train accident a few years ago.

How they did it: A team of 11 doctors performed the procedure on Raj Kumar at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi on Jan. 19. His donor was identified as Meena Mehta, a former administrative head of a local school who had been declared brain dead.

Speaking to the Indian Express, Dr. Swaroop Singh Gambhir said they first secured the bones before connecting the muscles, arteries and nerves of the donor's hands to the recipient's. After the 12-hour operation and six weeks of recovery, Kumar was discharged on Wednesday, local time.

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How he lost his hands: Kumar, a resident of Delhi’s Nangloi, lost his hands in October 2020 after getting run over by a train. “I was limping due to a leg injury. I slipped on the tracks and my bicycle got stuck. I was trying to pull my bicycle with my hands when I was run over," he told the Press Trust of India.

Kumar underwent a prosthetic trial after the accident. However, it was unsuccessful and left him dependent on others.

A glimmer of hope: Kumar found hope when the hospital informed him in January that they found him a match for a bilateral hand transplant. Mehta turned out to be a multiple organ donor, with other individuals receiving her corneas, liver and one of her kidneys.

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Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, for its part, was reportedly the first hospital in North India to receive permission to perform hand transplants in February 2023.

What’s next: Dr. Mahesh Mangal, chairman of the Department of Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery at the hospital, told PTI that Kumar will need to take immunosuppressants, similar to those given to liver and kidney transplant patients, for the rest of his life to prevent his body from rejecting his new hands.

Additionally, it will take six to seven months before he starts experiencing sensations in them. This means he will have to take precautions against touching anything too hot or too cold, Mangal added.

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