Chris Pollock tragically lost his hands, but he also found something — a new transplant protocol from UPMC that changed his life.
UPMC's “Pittsburgh Protocol” reduces the amount of anti-rejection medication that's needed to support a transplant. For Chris, less medication meant fewer side
effects and a better shot at returning to a normal life.
In 2008, Chris Pollock lost both hands in an accident on a friend’s farm near Harrisburg, Pa. When he found out about a hand transplant program in another state that year, he was tempted — but wary.
“What turned me off was all the medicine,” he says. The procedure meant a lifetime of high-dose antirejection drugs, with potentially serious side effects.
There had to be a better way, he thought.
Then, in March 2009, Chris read about Jeff Kepner of Augusta, Ga., who had become the nation’s first recipient of a double hand transplant at UPMC. What caught his eye were the descriptions of UPMC’s revolutionary anti-rejection method. In the “Pittsburgh Protocol,” an initial treatment helps the recipient’s body accept the transplant as its own tissue. A second course slowly decreases an already low dose of anti-rejection medication. The goal is greatly reduced side effects.
That convinced Chris. He became the nation’s second double hand transplant recipient in February 2010 at UPMC.
Today, he has sensation in both his hands. He can drive. He can sign his name. He hasn’t had side effects from the antirejection therapy. His next goal is to regain fine motor control.
“It keeps getting better,” he says, looking forward to what’s next. “There's no road map for it all; I’m creating it.”
He also has some advice for the transplant team at UPMC. “Keep going. The more you do it, the better you get at it.”