Asia's First Bilateral Total Arm Transplant: Prema Ram's Story
At 33 years old, Prema Ram is making history. He recently became the first in Asia to undergo a bilateral total arm transplant thanks to the groundbreaking efforts of Dr. Nilesh Satbhai and his medical team at Global Hospitals, Mumbai. The revolutionary procedure was performed 15 years after Ram lost both arms in an accident, and has given him newfound hope for a better life. This remarkable story offers inspiration and hope to those looking for hand or arm transplant options. With determination and the right medical professionals, Ram’s incredible transformation shows that anything is possible. Read on to learn more about Prema Ram’s journey and how he saw his dream become reality.
Prema Ram’s Full Arm Transplant — A Story of Patience and Hope
Fifteen years ago, Prema Ram from Rajasthan lost both his arms in an accident. He was working in a field when he accidentally touched a live electric pole, causing multiple burns to his hands. To save his life, doctors had to amputate both his hands.
Ram’s family attempted to provide him with artificial limbs and prostheses, but these could not give him functional hands.
Ram shared that he was devastated after he lost both his arms. His hands were amputated almost at the shoulder level, making him extremely dependent on his family for help with daily activities.
At the time in India, it was nearly impossible to perform a bilateral total arm transplant and Prema Ram’s family could not afford the expensive procedure abroad.
However, Prema Ram remained determined to find a solution and hoped to get hands someday. Over time, he learned to write using his legs to hold a pen. He was able to complete his education and recently took his B.Ed exams.
In October 2022, he found out about the successful hand transplant surgeries done at Global Hospitals in Mumbai, and he got registered there.
Dr. Nilesh Satbhai shared, “Previously, a bilateral total arm transplant was done in Europe, and this is the first bilateral total arm transplant in Asia. Doing a hand transplant at such a proximal level is very challenging. It is a race against time. During the procedure, timing and coordination are important so that limbs are attached to the body as early as possible so that blood circulation begins immediately due to a large number of muscles being transferred. Doing a similar surgery on both sides adds up to technical and logistical challenges.”
“This patient was looking for new hands for over a decade. The donor limb matched the patient’s hand color and size," added Dr. Nilesh. The surgery took place on February 9th and lasted for 16 hours without any complications. The patient remained in the hospital for 4 weeks and was discharged on March 9th. They have begun shoulder physiotherapy, which will last for the next 18-24 months. The patient is expected to regain reasonable hand function within 18 months.
Asia's First Bilateral Total Arm Transplant
“India has set a new benchmark which was necessary because prosthetics do not provide a permanent solution,” said Dr. Satbhai.
“I thank my family members, doctors, and the entire team at Global Hospitals, Mumbai for giving me new hands. I believe nothing is impossible in this world. I am very happy and looking forward to healing and doing everything on my own,” said Prema Ram.
What is Bilateral Total Arm Transplant?
Dr. Nilesh explains, “A very high transplant at the level of the shoulder is called a total arm transplant. A full arm transplant is slightly more complex than other arm transplants because a large amount of tissue is transferred from the donor to the recipient. So, the blood supply to the organ needs to be restored within a specific amount of time. Only then will the tissues survive. So, the clock is ticking and the timelines are very tight.”
A Future of Possibilities
The successful bilateral total arm transplant of Prema Ram has been a source of hope and inspiration for people looking for hand or arm transplants. This remarkable story shows that with determination, support from family, and the right professionals, anything is possible. It proves that even after 15 years of not having functional arms, it still is possible to regain that functionality through an arm transplant. Prema Ram’s story shows us that with hard work, courage, and hope—nothing is impossible.
With the expertise of medical professionals in India and around the world, people facing similar issues can now look forward to getting back their hands or arms and leading a normal life again.