Double hand transplant recipient in hospital

Hands show signs of rejection
Jeff Kepner
Jeff Kepner
Jeff Kepner during rehab in 2009

The Augusta man who underwent the nation's first double hand transplant last year is back in a Pittsburgh hospital after the appendages showed signs of rejection.


Jeff Kepner was admitted Tuesday morning to the hospital where the procedure was performed, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said his wife, Valarie. She said he is responding to treatments but did not know when he would be released.

She said signs of possible rejection started last week, showing up in the form of a "reddish type of rash." Photographs of the rash were sent to his doctors in Pittsburgh and they determined that it was a sign of rejection.

"It is something that they expect will happen within the first year, so they immediately called us on Monday and told us we need to get to Pittsburgh as soon as possible," Valarie Kepner said. "Things are progressing as they have expected in responding to that treatment. So, things seem to be going well at this point."

Kepner, 57, lost his hands and feet to a massive bacterial infection that nearly killed him a decade ago. Transplant surgeons attached donor limbs to his forearms in the procedure.

After the May 4 transplant, he was put on an anti-rejection therapy called the Pittsburgh Protocol, which involves getting a bone marrow donation from the donor and a single-drug regimen. It was the first time it had been used in a hand transplant.

In a November article in The Augusta Chronicle , Kepner said he could feel hot and cold in his palms.

Valarie Kepner said she's heard from a lot of people since her husband has been in the hospital and wants to thank them for their concern.

"We got people e-mailing us, and we appreciate that," she said.

So far, so good with double-hand transplant