Transplant of internal body organs is getting pretty common, but have you ever heard of a surgical transplant of two arms? Probably not, because a 19-year-old girl named Shreya Siddanagowda, went through Asia’s first ever upper arm transplant at Kochi hospital, successfully.

Shreya, the 19-year-old chemical engineering student at Manipal Institute of Technology lost both her hands below elbow when she met with an accident last year in September. The accident took place when the bus taken by Shreya to her college in Pune, overturned and crushed both her arms – after which both the arms had to be amputated at the elbow. The only daughter of Suma Nuggihalli and Fakirgowda Siddnagowder, a senior manager at Tata Motors was struggling with her armless life when she came to know that a hand transplant surgery was possible and that she could get closer to leading a normal life.

Soon she was able to get a donor too, a 20-year-old BCom final year student of Ernakulam’s Rajagiri College named Sachin – who had been declared brain-dead after suffering a motorcycle accident. Sachin’s parents and family soon agreed to donate his hands and other organs for transplant. It was Shreya who stepped up and agreed to receive arms from a male donor and it was first time ever that a male’s hands were transplanted on a female. It took 20 surgeons and a 16-member anaesthetic team led by Dr Subrahmania Iyer, head, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Department, AIMS, 13 hours to complete the transplantation.

The complex transplant surgery involved accurately identifying and connecting each nerve, muscle, tendon and artery of both arms. After the successful surgery, Shreya’s body has accepted the transplanted organs but she will have to be on lifelong medications so that her body never rejects the organ. At present she is under a regime of learning movements of her new hands’ fingers, wrists and shoulders. In such surgeries, 100% result and working of arms is not possible and the maximum Shreya can get through her new hands will be 85% of arm movement after two years of continuous training and medication. This was first of its kind surgery in Asia and only sixth in the whole world. With a hope, strong will and resilience, Shreya will soon be living a near-normal life, she is an inspiration of the idea of nothing is impossible if we are really willing.

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