Shreya Siddanagowda, a 21-year old Indian, was involved in a ghastly bus accident three years ago, and as a result, both her hands had to be amputated.

Shreya underwent an intensive surgical procedure that had to be carried out on her to attach hand transplants to her limbs.

Fortunately for Shreya, hands were gotten from a donor, the surgical procedure was successful, and her body accepted the new hands graciously without any complications.

According to The Indian Express reports, Shreya’s hand transplants differed from her original skin color.

The transplants were a few shades darker than Shreya’s skin, and her skin tone didn’t match the new hand transplants.

Not long after the surgical operation, the complexion of her new transplants started changing to match her skin tone, and this puzzled the doctors.

The excited Shreya said,

“I don’t know how the transformation occurred. But it feels like my own hands now. The skin color was very dark after the transplant, not that it was ever my concern, but now it matches my tone.”

After Shreya’s hands were amputated following her accident, she registered at India’s Amrita Institute for a transplant.

The Amrita Institute was the only Institute in Asia that could successfully do a hand transplant, but donors were scarce at that time; hands for surgical procedures were not readily available in hospitals.

As a matter of fact, hand donors are still rare worldwide, so Shreya had low hopes of receiving the transplants she sought.

The transplant coordinator broke the news to Shreya and her family; he said even though she was top on the wait-list for hand transplant recipients, it could take months for a donor to come by. Shreya went back to her lodge with no hope, or so she thought.

Unfortunately for Sachin, a 20-year-old male college student was involved in a fatal bike accident.

His family agreed to donate his hands to India’s Amrita Institute after he was declared brain dead.

This was just an hour after Shreya visited the hospital.

It didn’t take long before the hospital contacted Shreya’s family with good news. 

While recounting how the odds suddenly turned in her favor, the 21-year-old transplant recipient said:

“The transplant coordinator said it could take months for a donor to come,” Shreya recalled. “We returned to our hotel without any hope. An hour later, the hospital called us back for urgent blood tests.”

First Successful Inter-Gender Transplant That Was Performed In Asia

Shreya’s hand transplant became the first inter-gender transplant that was performed in Asia; the donor was a male and Shreya is a female. The surgical procedure lasted for over 13 hours.

About 20 surgeons and a 16 member anesthesia team were available to perform the surgical procedure.

The procedure began with the Surgeons attaching the donor’s limbs to Shreya’s body by the bone.

Afterwards, the arteries, veins, and tendon muscles were fused before the skin was finally stitched to the recipient’s upper limb.

For over a year and a half, Shreya was subjected to intensive physiotherapy; this is a critical practice that is often recommended by physiotherapist because it helps the recipient’s body to adjust and achieve optimal physical functioning fully.

Since the introduction of organ/body part transplant in 1954, there have been less than 100 successful hand transplants reported around the world and experts claim that the changing skin tone of Shreya’s hand transplants may be the first of such cases.

To unearth the mystery behind Shreya’s unique skin color changing experience, researchers are currently focused on recording developments in Shreya’s case.

However, more skin color-changing occurrences among transplant recipients are needed before these researchers can make proper assessments.

It is pertinent to note that a similar case was observed in an Afghan soldier who also received a double hand transplant from a male donor.

The skin tone of the recipient’s transplanted hands slightly changed to match his skin tone. But unfortunately, the Afghan soldier died before his case could be properly documented.

Shreya’s Changing Skin Color Still A Mystery

The head of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Amrita Institute, Subramania Iyer said; hopefully, they will come up with a journal on hand transplant, even though doctors are yet to come up with a theory, they believe that for Shreya’s case; melanin cells are responsible for changing skin color as the melanin cells’ primary function is to make up a person’s natural skin tone.

Shreya had to undergo physiotherapy to adjust to her new hands.

According to Mohit Sharma, one of the team members that worked on Shreya’s transplant surgery:

“Lymphatic channels between the donor’s hand and the host’s body makes way completely to allow the flow of fluids after a year. It is likely that the melanin-producing cells slowly replaced the donor’s cells and would have led to the change.”

In addition to the change of her transplanted hands’ tone, the extra fat in her transplants gradually dissolved and Shreya’s new limbs — which had been bulkier male arms — shrank to better match her upper limbs.

Shreya’s mother (Suma) also noticed these drastic adjustments.

Suma said her daughter’s hands appeared to become leaner and longer. They never expected such adjustments to occur.

Without mincing words, Suma said:

“I see her hand every day. The fingers have become like a woman’s; the wrist is smaller. These are remarkable changes.”

The practice of inter-gender hand transplant is a new development; hence, doctors have little to go by in anticipating developments.

But Subramania Iyer, the head of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery At Amrita Institute, suggests that female hormones may have led to this change. He said:

“This is our first case of a male-to-female hand transplant. We can only guess that female hormones have led to the change but assessing the exact cause is difficult,”

At the moment, Shreya still undergoes physiotherapy and hopes to get full function and control of one of her three nerves, including her finger muscles.

In the meantime, Shreya is capable of writing her assignments by herself with her hands.

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