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First arms transplant man wants to gulp beer

[ 2009-07-23 13:02]     字号 [] [] []  
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The world's only recipient of two full arms in a landmark transplant operation said yesterday he expected to be able to toast the success of the procedure with a good Bavarian beer soon.

Karl Merk, a dairy farmer from the southern German city of Munich, showed off his new-found mobility, waving his arms around and scratching his head for the cameras a year after his operation. He lost both arms in a work accident.

Asked if he was able to drink a glass of beer in typical Bavarian fashion, Merk said: "Well, yeah, at the moment I'm drinking from a straw otherwise it would be a bit dangerous but it should happen soon."

However, he said his life was "basically back to normal" after the 15-hour surgery carried out by around 40 doctors, surgeons and nurses on July 25 and 26 last year.

"My biggest dream is to be able to move my fingers a bit and basically do everything independently for myself," Merk added.

Nevertheless, Merk said he was able to enjoy simple pleasures again.

"It's going really well. I often go with my wife to walk the dog," he said.

He demonstrated some of the gruelling rehabilitation exercises he must perform daily to regain strength, crossing his arms several times for the cameras.

The transplant was a pioneering operation and the only one ever performed. It was carried out at the teaching hospital of the Technical University in Munich.

The five teams working in two operating theatres gathered at 10 pm the night of the operation, one on each side of the patient and the donor, who had died only hours before. A fifth group removed a leg vein from the donor.

The first step was to expose the muscles, nerves and blood vessels to be connected. Before the bones of the donor could be cut, blood vessels in his arms were filled with a cooled preservation solution.

Both the donor's arms were then removed exactly at the point corresponding to Merk's arm stumps. First the bones were joined, then arteries and veins to ensure blood circulation as quickly as possible.

The surgeons attached the muscles and tendons, then the nerves and finally the skin.

Although Merk's body had tried hard to reject the transplanted arms three times, this difficulty had now been overcome with drugs that he will now have to take for the rest of his life, doctors said.

Christoph Hoehnke, the head of the transplant team, said: "It is our intention today to show people, who may have a similar handicap ... what is possible in certain circumstances."

"Mr Merk is much further along than we thought he would be ... he was a fantastic patient," he said, beaming.

(英语点津 Helen 编辑)

First arms transplant man wants to gulp beer

About the broadcaster:

First arms transplant man wants to gulp beer

Nancy Matos is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Nancy is a graduate of the Broadcast Journalism and Media program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Her journalism career in broadcast and print has taken her around the world from New York to Portugal and now Beijing. Nancy is happy to make the move to China and join the China Daily team.