DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE - CONGRESSIONALLY DIRECTED MEDICAL RESEARCH PROGRAMS

Chris Pollock, a Pennsylvania native, lost both of his hands in a farming accident in 2008. On that fateful day, he was harvesting corn on a friend’s farm when he noticed problems with the machine. He attempted to fix the problem, but the chain on the harvester rollers grabbed his shirt and arms. A neighbor eventually came to his rescue, and Chris was airlifted to Hershey Medical Center for treatment of his injuries. He was later fitted with prosthetic hands, but longed to feel the touch of his children again. Chris began to explore alternatives and, although initially skeptical, decided to pursue a hand transplant. After a short wait, a donor with hands of the same size and skin color was found. A team of 21 doctors worked for over 11 hours to complete Chris’s hand transplants, but that was only the beginning. After 5 years of intense occupational therapy, he regained 90 percent function in both arms and hands. Chris is the second person in the United States to undergo a double hand transplant, and the first to receive an entire forearm.

Chris Pollock
Photos and text used with permission of Chris Pollock

Before the accident that claimed his hands, Chris was a military mechanic in the Army National Guard and worked on ground equipment, tanks, and other heavy equipment. He retired in 2009 as an E-5 (Sergeant). Since his recovery, Chris has focused on learning new things and started a teaching career. During summer, he enjoys working on his lawn and traveling to different military bases. He also enjoys encouraging children who are working through adversity and sharing his experience with patients, therapists, and doctors. He reminds his audience that “most things in life are temporary and somehow always work out… be concerned about today and don’t worry about tomorrow.”

Chris Pollock Chris Pollock
Photos and text used with permission of Chris Pollock

Chris first learned about the Reconstructive Transplant Research Program (RTRP) through his doctor. He has served as a consumer on RTRP peer review panels to provide a patient’s perspective. Chris compliments recent efforts by the RTRP and the scientific community to advance the field of vascularized composite allotransplantation and notes that transplant options are of great value to people needing to regain the sensation of human touch. He stressed that additional work needs to be done to improve public perception of hand transplantation.

Last updated Wednesday, November 15, 2017