Emily Fennell of Yuba City received the donor limb in a marathon surgery last month at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Doctors introduced Fennell Tuesday at a news conference.
During the 14 1/2-hour operation, a team of nearly 20 surgeons, nurses and support staff grafted a hand from a deceased donor onto the patient and intricately connected bones, blood vessels, nerves and tendons.
The transplant was the 13th such case in the United States and the first for the hospital.
Fennell was able to move her fingers soon after the surgery.
“I can’t actually feel it yet,” Fennell told reporters. “I won’t have sensation for close to a year, but it’s, right now, it all seems surreal that I didn’t have a hand for all those years.”
She faces several months of rehabilitation and has to take drugs for the rest of her life to prevent rejection.
The UCLA operation cost about $800,000, but since it was experimental, the patient did not have to pay.
Little has been revealed about the donor except that the hand matched the patient’s in terms of blood type, size and color.
Fennell said her transplanted hand’s true test was in the first visit with her daughter. Fennell had her accident when her daughter was just 14 months old, so she’s never seen her mother with two hands.
“My daughter is 6, she’s in kindergarten, and she has been able to touch it,” Fennell said. “I was able to go home last weekend and visit her, and in her 6-year-old world, she doesn’t have more adequate language to describe it, but she says, ‘Mommy it’s cool.’”
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