Thumbs up! UK’s first ever double hand transplant patient is finally able to pour his own beer, write and even make a cup of tea using his donor limbs

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Chris King, 57, lost both his hands – except the thumbs – in an accident involving a metal pressing machine at work four years ago.

After having the operation in July at the UK’s specialist centre at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) to replace both limbs, he was looking forward to holding a bottle of beer. In the weeks following the 12-hour procedure, he was able to pour a pint of his favourite Yorkshire ale from a bottle and said it tasted ‘sweeter’ because of his accomplishment.

Nine months on, he says his highlight is having been able to write a letter to thank his surgeon Professor Simon Kay, who conducted the operation alongside eight other medics.

The consultant plastic surgeon says he is incredibly pleased with Mr King’s progress as he aims to tie up his own shoelaces and button his shirt in the coming months.  

Looking at his hands, Mr King, from Rossington, said: ‘They are my boys, they really are. It’s been going fantastically.’

‘I can make a fist, I can hold a pen, I can do more or less the same functions as I could with my original hands. 

‘Everything’s just progressing and it’s bigger strides too that I’m making – bigger than I thought I’d ever be doing.

‘I think that will be the icing on the cake when I can do my laces, and I don’t think that’s far off. There are still limitations but I’m getting back to the full Chris again.’

Professor Kay said he was amazed to receive a Christmas card and letter from Mr King, written with one of his new hands.

He added: ‘When you bear in mind he will go on improving for another two years, he’s really remarkable – a really vindication for the surgery he’s had.

‘He’s been fantastic. His results by eight months are even more impressive than we expected. He’s doing more, sooner than we expected. 

‘There is a sequence, but we expected it to be spread out over a much longer period of time. And a lot of that is down to his extraordinary enthusiasm and hard work. 

‘He’s proved to be, as he proved right at the beginning, a very robust resilient patient, very enthusiastic about his hands and I think he’s absolutely delighted.’

Mr King lost both his hands, except the thumbs, in an accident involving a metal pressing machine at his work in Doncaster four years ago.

He was close to death in the ambulance after the terrible incident, but a team of ‘unsung heroes’ at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital managed to save his life.

They also managed to save enough of his lower limbs to enable the later transplant surgery at LGI – which has proved to be a complete success. 

The trust running the hospital was awarded a contract to become the UK’s specialist centre for hand transplants by NHS England earlier last year. 

Mr King returned back to work shortly after the surgery to attach the donor hands – and previously said his firm had been ‘brilliant’. 

Despite being unique, he does not hide the new limbs when he goes out and does not mind when children ask questions about them.

He added: ‘I don’t really think of my hands, I just think of what I’m going to do next. That’s back to me doing that again. That’s why it feels so good and why there’s a smile on my face.

‘I had a life-changing accident. That changed into a life changing operation which brought me back. I’m not worried about the future.

‘I’ve heard it said that you can’t look at life through rose-coloured glasses. You can.’

Immediately after the procedure, he managed to gain some movement in his donor hands – but it has since improved dramatically. 

The single man described how he celebrated re-learning how to hold a pen and write again with a letter to the professor.

And he said his handwriting is improving every day, now he has decided he will resume being left-handed.

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