Monday, August 5, 2013

But what if it's an evil hand?

So, did you know that they do hand transplants?

According to that Wikipedia article, the first hand transplant  was in 1964 in Ecuador, but within a couple of weeks, the patient suffered from transplant rejection. Which I don't even know how to countenance.

I mean, as a society, we're not unfamiliar with replacing organs. Heart transplant, Kidneys, whatever. This year, they transplanted a windpipe that they printed on a 3D printer. Truly we're living in the world of tomorrow.

But a hand? I saw Star Wars. I'm comfortable with the idea of a robot hand. They even (I think) have robot hands that you can control pretty well with your brain and all that. But a new real living hand?

My train of thought got started on this when I read about the Boston Children's Hospital having started its first pediatric hand transplant program. Which raises so many questions. If a child receives a hand transplant, is said hand expected to grown normally with the child? Will they make effort to match skin tone? They'll obviously, I think, transplant a right hand to replace a right hand, a left hand to replace a left hand. Right? The Boston Globe article does say they expect the hand to grow as the child does (so, they're not putting a grown up hand on a child), and also that children's nerves regenerate more quickly than adult nerves.

Can you imagine, getting a hand transplant? The nails might be shaped differently from your nails. There might be scars on it that you don't remember getting, because you didn't. I've got two scars on my right hand, one from the corner of a laptop (yeah, I know) and the other from an apparently dull knife when I was trying to cut up sweet potatoes for fries. Would they make effort to find out that kind of a history, to make the new hand owner more comfortable with their new hand? What if the person was married, and they've got that little ridge from their wedding ring? Would you think about their husband, their wife? Would you still have the feeling of wearing a ring all the time and then suddenly not? What if you get a guitarist's left hand, and you're not a guitarist so what do you with that flexibility, those callouses? Does muscle memory count, if the muscles who learned it weren't attached to your brain at the time?

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