NC’s first hand transplant recipient makes progress


DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina’s first hand transplant recipient is now gaining use of that hand just months after the surgery.

Rene Chavez, who lives in Laredo, Texas, lost his dominant left hand when he reached into a meat grinder just before his brother turned on the power.

In May, Duke doctors performed the first-of-its-kind surgery in the state on the 54-year-old Chavez. Since then, he has been attending therapy every day for at least four hours.

The surgery, which included 17 surgeons, took 12 hours to perform.

Duke is one of just 10 hospitals in the United States that has performed a hand transplant.RELATED: Duke Health performs first hand transplant in the state

Doctors said no unexpected complications have come up.

As of now, Chavez does not have full feeling in his new hand but through his interpreter, he said the procedure has been life changing.

“I am discovering every day new things that I can do with my hand,” Chavez said through an interpreter. “Everything thing that’s happened is amazing.”

Jodi Moore, an occupational therapist, said Chavez has learned how to write with that hand.

“He has a 5-year-old grandson at home and one of the goals was to be able to toss a ball. So, we’ve been working on that and he’s been able now as well,” Moore said.

Chavez is expected to return home to Texas next month.

Since his story first aired two months ago, Duke has received several calls of interests for future transplants.

Chavez is one of fewer than 90 people worldwide to have undergone a hand transplant.

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