This day last year, Dr Vinita Puri, head of the plastic surgery department of the civic-run King Edward Memorial (KEM) hospital, Parel, performed a 14-hour hand transplant surgery on Rahul Ahirwar, a 23-year-old resident of Madhya Pradesh. On Thursday, Dr Puri tied a rakhi on Rahul’s transplanted right hand on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan, also marking the first anniversary of the feat.
Rahul’s was the first hand transplant to be performed at a public-run institution in Maharashtra, and the second one in the city. “August 11 will remain the most important date in my life. Last year, I got my hand back and this year, my operating doctor tied rakhi on the same hand which has gained full sensation,” Rahul told The Indian Express.
On Thursday, Dr Puri performed the aarti and put a tilak on Rahul’s forehead and then tied the rakhi. In exchange, Rahul gifted Dr Puri a pen and a chocolate. “In a hundred lifetimes, I won’t be able to pay her back for what she has done for me,” he said.
Last year, Raksha Bandhan was celebrated on August 22. “Last year also I tied a rakhi on his wrist, but over the bandage. It is more special this year as he has gained sensation in his hand so he could feel the rakhi,” said Dr Puri.
Rahul was only 19 when he was working in a local automobile factory in Haryana. On April 26, 2019, his right hand got stuck in a machine and he lost both of his hands. While searching for doctors and hospitals for his treatment, Rahul learnt about KEM hospital. After over two years of waiting, he underwent the surgery.
Every day, for the last year, Rahul has gone to KEM hospital for his rehabilitation therapy from Chembur where he is currently staying with his brother and sister-in-law. “As these exercises are essential to gain full strength of his hand, my family shifted to Mumbai from Haryana. They take me to the hospital daily…,” he said.
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Hand transplants are complicated procedures and more technical than other organ transplants such as kidneys or liver. These procedures are known as composite allotransplantation and involve connecting two main arteries, bones, multiple veins, nerves and tendons.
Rahul can now type on the computer and even use mobile phones easily. Considering the success of his surgery, the hospital has plans to do the second transplant on his left amputated hand. “Dr Puri has not only given me a new lease of life but is an elder sister to me,” said Rahul.