Yuba City mom receives first West Coast hand transplant through UCLA program

A team of surgeons and medical staff join Emily Fennell, 26, as she discusses receiving a hand transplant at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
A team of surgeons and medical staff join Emily Fennell, 26, as she discusses receiving a hand transplant at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Corey Moore/KPCC

A Yuba City mother who lost her right hand in a car accident today discussed what it’s been like to get a new one. She’s made history as the first West Coast hand transplant recipient.

Emily Fennell, 26, wasn’t feeling well this morning as she spoke. But a member of the surgical team who performed the hand transplant said that’s normal for organ recipients. Several years ago a car accident mangled Fennell’s right hand and doctors were unable to save it.

Fennell looked into the hand transplant program at UCLA last summer. She knew there would be risks with the drugs she’d have to take but was determined to go through with it. Surgeons performed the 14-hour operation last month and the hospital discharged her just over a week ago.

As Fennell returns for therapy, doctors say they’ll make sure her body isn’t rejecting the hand. Fennell can’t feel her hand yet – but she’s says she’s overjoyed and grateful to the family who donated it.

Fennell smiled as she said she looks forward to doing things that she took for granted before like typing and tending to her 6-year-old daughter who thinks her new hand is “cool.”

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