Greetland man’s new hand - UK’s first transplant to be screened on TV

Mark Cahill the first man in the country to have a hand transplant, at the Leeds General Infirmary..Pictured with his wife Sylvia.
Mark Cahill the first man in the country to have a hand transplant, at the Leeds General Infirmary..Pictured with his wife Sylvia.

A documentary will be screened next month to chart the incredible journey of a Greetland man who has made medical history - becoming the UK’s first hand transplant recipient.

Mark Cahill, 51, was given the life-changing eight-hour operation by a top team of medics at Leeds General Infirmary and is said to be continuing to make good progress with his new hand.

Film-makers have been covering the run-up to the medical first for the past two years - including filming the father-of-one as one of the potential candidates for the pioneering surgery.

And on Boxing Day, Mr Cahill - who had lost the use of his hand through severe gout - received the momentous call to say a hand had become available and he was the best match.

True North Productions in Leeds filmed the surgery and are continuing to film his recovery. Within a week Mr Cahill, ex-licensee of the former Shears pub in West Vale, was delighting doctors by being able to move his new fingers.

Andew Sheldon, executive producer of My New Hand, said the process had been fascinating.

“Mark came through a series of physical and psychological assessments, and then as the surgical team waited for a donor to become available, was placed on a waiting list.

“The hospital had to be confident he was robust enough to deal with the surgery, and cope mentally with the idea that he had someone else’s hand on the end of his arm.

“The process is fascinating, and throws up so many ethical and moral issues. For example, does it matter if the ethnic background of the donor and the recipient match? Or the gender?

“We filmed with Mark going about his normal life around Greetland, seeing how difficult it is for someone to cope when they effectively don’t have the use of their hands to do the everyday things we all take for granted.

“If all goes well, the surgical team hope he’ll begin to get more movement in the coming weeks and months, though it might be two years before he receives the full benefit of the operation.”

Mr Cahill will have to take immuno-suppressant drugs for the rest of his life to prevent his body rejecting the transplant - but says it “feels great” to have a functioning right hand again.

“It’s how I expected it to look, because I’ve done a lot of research about hand transplants. But you can do all the research you want but you don’t know how you’re going to feel. I’ve had a lot of help from psychologists because the biggest thing is afterwards, whether I would accept it as mine.

“It feels great to look at this hand I haven’t seen move for five years and see it move.”

He added: “Before the op, I couldn’t tie my own shoes, do up the buttons on my shirt, cut up my own dinner or play with my grandson’s toys wit him - hopefully I’ll be able to do all those things now.”

Mr Cahill thanked the donor family, with wife Sylvia, 47, adding: It was a wonderful thing to do. It must have been really difficult for them but I’ll always be grateful for the choice they made.”

My New Hand is due to be screened on BBC One in late February.