This is a difficult post for me to write. As much as I admire the surgeons who are pushing this new advance I found myself bothered by this one. Why?
That’s what I have been asking myself. After all, Linda Lu, 21 year old, is a college student from Orlando, Florida is ecstatic about the new hand -- (quote/photo credit)
"I've already accepted it as my hand since the day I woke up," Linda Lu said during a Monday press conference at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where the surgery took place. "But just looking at it, sometimes I still can't believe that it's there... It kind of feels like magic."
"I'm in information technology," Lu said. "So, my primary goal is to be able to type."
Simple enough goal, isn’t it? When playing the “what would I give up game” my hands are never given up easily. I could probably learn to sew with only one hand, but it would be difficult and it would become mostly machine sewing. I could still blog as I could type with one hand – not as fast, but it would get done.
I would not be able to do surgery with one hand, but a hand transplant would not give that back to me anyway. The dexterity would never be good enough.
Linda is reported to have lost her left hand when she was 1 year old. The amputation was done due to complications from Kawasaki disease.
Still I’m left with this uneasy feeling. Most people born with only one hand/arm adjust well. For example, look at the baseball pitcher Jim Abbott.
This healthy young woman will now be placed on anti-rejection medications for life. It will make any pregnancies she has high-risk ones. She will be more susceptible to infections. Some anti-rejection medications increase the risk of cancers.
Just because we can do a procedure doesn’t mean we always should. I hope my uneasiness regarding this one is misplaced. After all, I am getting my information from news articles and not from a discussion with the patient.
Florida Student Receives Rare Hand Transplant Surgery, FoxNews.com, March 28, 2011
Valencia student has rare hand transplant at Emory University, LA Times, March 28, 2011 (video as well as print)
Double Hand Transplant on Twitter (August 26, 2010)
Cost of Hand Transplantation? (September 22, 2010)
Rejection (December 1, 2010)
New Technology May Help Prevent Rejection in Hand Transplant Patients (December 13, 2010)