The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Mark Cahill

Hand transplant recipient

MarkCahillMark Cahill from Halifax is the UK’s first hand transplant patient, having received a transplant to his right hand in 2012 after it was left paralysed due to gout.

Normally a very active person, Mark had played rugby and golf for many years, alongside running a pub business. Back in 2007 when Mark was due to go on holiday, he was taken into hospital with an infection in his hand which was found to be a result of gout. Overnight turned into two months and during that time his hand became completely functionless. For five years he was unable to move his right hand.

In 2012, Mark arranged a consultation with plastic surgeon Simon Kay. He was placed on the hand transplant programme and, shortly after, a donor became available. The pioneering hand transplant surgery took place on Boxing Day 2012 at Leeds General Infirmary and took eight hours.

Mark said: “It has been a long road to recovery as the nerves take time to regenerate and grow back but slowly I was able to regain movement in my hand. The operation has changed my life. Before, I couldn't tie my own shoes, do up the buttons on my shirt, cut up my own dinner or play with my grandson's toys with him – I’m able to do all these things now."

Mark’s extraordinary story recounts the remarkable time his wife Sylvia suffered a cardiac arrest and Mark was able to administer lifesaving CPR using the very hand transplanted thanks to the altruism of an organ donor – demonstrating how his gift of life enabled him to save the life of another.
Mark was instructed by emergency services to give CPR to Sylvia after he found her unable to breath and for several minutes, Mark used his transplanted hand to perform compressions whilst awaiting the ambulance. The paramedics were able to resuscitate Sylvia.

Mark explains, “I remember I’d been watching the European Cup game that night but it was a boring match so I came home early. Sylvia was in bed watching TV when I heard a horrendous noise and realised her eyes were wide open and she was staring at the ceiling. I phoned 999 and a wonderful woman on the phone instructed me to administer CPR. Without my new hand, I simply wouldn’t have been able to do it.”