Felix Gretarsson, 48, from Iceland, lost his arms in an accident at work 23 years ago, Agence France-Presse reports. In 1998, Gretarsson, an electrician by occupation, worked on a high-voltage power line. A sudden power surge of 11,000 volts burned his hands and threw him to the icy ground. Gretarsson suffered multiple fractures and internal injuries and fell into a three-month coma, during which surgeons amputated both of his arms.
In the following years, he suffered severe depression, drug addiction and several surgeries, including a liver transplant. As Gretarsson's wife Sylvia said at a press conference after the operation, in recent years he recovered, lived a full life, and she did not feel that a hand transplant was so necessary. However, Gretarsson himself all this time dreamed only of her.
Some time ago, Jean-Michel Dubernard, a renowned transplantologist, who in the same 1998 successfully transplanted a hand for the first time, visited a scientific conference in Reykjavik. Gretarsson used this chance to meet with the doctor and ask him if his hands could be returned. However, it took years to find suitable donors and to organize a logistically complex operation.
In order to minimize the time required to transfer limbs from donor to recipient, four surgical teams of 50 health workers were employed. The operation was performed at a clinic in Lyon under the direction of Dr. Aram Ghazaryan. The patient's arms were completely recovered from the shoulder. Nine days after the operation, no serious complications have arisen, the patient is recovering. However, it is still difficult to say how much it will be possible to restore hand mobility. “If he can learn to actively flex the elbow, it will completely change his life”, - says Dr. Gazaryan.
Doctors warn that with such a serious amputation it is difficult to predict, and the patient will take years and years to become akin to new hands. However, the doctors promised that they would "support him throughout his life".