Hand transplantee picks up golf - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Hand transplantee picks up golf

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Donnie Rickelman's life has been filled with the kind of ups and downs that could make the most motivated of men feel discouraged.

"I mean there's a lot of things you can't do as an amputee. It's just tough," Rickelman said. 

He injured both his hands in a factory accident in March of 1998, when they were caught in a steel splitter. His dominant right hand was crushed. His left hand was partially amputated. 

"It's a two-handed world.  You use two hands in every part of your life," explained Rickelman.

The road to recovery led him here to Louisville and Jewish Hospital in 2011. That's when he became the seventh person to receive a hand transplant from Louisville's Vascularized Composite Allograft Program made up of physicians from Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center, the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand & Microsurgery, Jewish Hospital and University of Louisville.

Complications can happen and there are risks to the procedure, but today Rickelman has a  clean bill of health.

 "He's handled his medicines without any significant complications. He hasn't had any adverse reactions to them. He's not diabetic. He's done extremely well," Rickelman's doctor, Michael Marvin , said.

So well, he's decided to pick up golf.

"It's a big thrill to know that I can come here grab that club and swing it. I only had one hand, and that hand was damaged.  I didn't think I'd be able to play golf," Rickelman said. 

Any doubts he may have had about it are gone. While he's still developing his swing, the accuracy of his drive is spot on. 

"I mean it's a total new lease. It's a second chance, and you have to live every day like it's a second chance," Rickelman said.

Inspiring words from a man who has faced a terrible injury head on, refusing to ever give up.

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