UK’s first hand transplant patient saves his wife’s life using new limb

Mark Cahill pictured with his wife Sylvia after having the transplant. Picture by Simon Hulme.
Mark Cahill pictured with his wife Sylvia after having the transplant. Picture by Simon Hulme.
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The man who received the UK’s first hand transplant has used the limb to save his wife’s life after she suffered a heart attack.

Former pub landlord Mark Cahill, 55, from Greetland, near Halifax, used his transplanted hand to perform chest compressions on his wife Sylvia after she stopped breathing one night four weeks ago.

Mark Cahill pictured at his home in Greetland. Picture by Simon Hulme.

Mark Cahill pictured at his home in Greetland. Picture by Simon Hulme.

Mrs Cahill, 51, had complained of heartburn and feeling unwell earlier in the day but it was only when she gasped while watching television in bed that her husband noticed something was not quite right.

He said: “I turned over and heard this awful noise, I looked at her and her eyes were wide open and she wasn’t breathing.

“I phoned 999 and the operator said the paramedics were on their way but I should do compressions.”

He explained that for eight minutes he used his transplanted hand to hold the phone while performing the compressions with his left hand, but switched to use his new hand when he started becoming tired.

“My transplanted hand actually saved her life,” he said. “She was dead for 19 minutes – that’s what they told me, from the time I called 999 to them using the defibrillator on her.”

His wife spent 12 days in hospital recovering from the heart attack and is currently recuperating at home.

“She’s making a good recovery but she’s still very tired and has had a bit of memory loss, which is normal,” Mr Cahill said.

“It was actually our 14th wedding anniversary yesterday, but it was a bit special this one.”

The father-of-three received the UK’s first hand transplant in 2012 after he was left with a functionless right hand due to gout and subsequent infection.

He endured eight hours of painstaking microvascular surgery led by consultant plastic surgeon Professor Simon Kay to attach the limb at Leeds General Infirmary.

Earlier this year it emerged that Prof Kay and his team have been chosen by NHS England to carry out the NHS-funded surgery for patients across the country.