Friday, November 2, 2012

MGH performs its first hand transplant


SUCCESS STORY: Kinan speaks with journalists as his fiancée, Carrie Pratt, and Cetrulo look on.


Hope. Tenacity. Perseverance.

Those are three key elements Joe Kinan uses to describe his attitude and outlook on life. A survivor of the devastating 2003 Rhode Island nightclub fire, the 43-year-old has seen his share of difficult times and complex surgeries – 123 in the past decade – all to address the substantial injuries he sustained in the blaze.

On Oct. 26, 19 days after becoming the MGH’s first hand transplant recipient, Kinan showed how his unwavering commitment to having a positive attitude has paid off – he wiggled the fingers on his left hand for the first time in public. Flanked by television cameras and journalists who attended a media event following his discharge from the hospital, Kinan thanked the dedicated MGH staff who have cared for him throughout the years.

“Joe has been incredibly inspiring to all of his doctors and nurses, and his courage is astounding,” said Curtis L. Cetrulo Jr., MD, of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the new Hand Transplantation Service, who led the transplant team. “We’re just so very glad that we could offer this procedure to him.”

The 15-hour surgery was the first of its kind at the MGH, and Cetrulo expressed his appreciation to the many staff members who helped make the groundbreaking procedure a reality. While Kinan must take immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of his life as a way to prevent rejection, the program’s ultimate goal is to advance the field of transplantation to achieve tolerance. Cetrulo is working closely with the Transplantation Biology Research Center, which last month celebrated the 10th anniversary of the first use of the tolerance protocol in an organ transplant patient. The protocol includes a bone marrow transplant using cells from the donor in conjunction with the transplant, which results in the body eventually accepting the transplanted tissue without the need for life-long immunosuppressive drugs.

“We are working to eliminate the need for these drugs,” Cetrulo said. “Joe’s courage in being the first recipient will help lead us to better ways to perform this surgery going forward.” 

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