Double hand transplant patient visits mom in Pa.

LANCASTER, Pa. - The nation's first double hand transplant patient is out of the hospital and looking forward to returning to his wife and daughter in Georgia, his mother says.

Jeff Kepner, 57, who's originally from Lancaster, visited his mother over the weekend. Doris Schafer, 82, of Manheim Township, told the Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era that her son plans to return to Augusta, Ga., at the end of this week.

Schafer said her son is considerably happier than when she last saw him in June at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, about a month after the transplant.

"He was sort of, oh, down, and a little grumpy," she said. "Now he's not. He laughs and smiles. It's a big, big difference."

He still has no feeling in his fingers, she said, but is learning how to catch a ball and pick up small items.

"They told him it will be at least until the end of the year before those nerves get down into those fingers," Schafer said. "Then he'll begin to do things."

Kepner is looking forward to returning to church but has been told he can't do so right after returning home because of the risk of infection, Schafer said.

"The doctor said no going to church till after the end of the year," she said. "He said, 'We'll have to work something out.' People are anxious to see him."

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