generous pic

The Most Generous Gesture, Ever

The OPD was busy. We worked feverishly to see all patients by afternoon. Two surgeries scheduled today were minor cases, deliberately kept that way. By one pm we had to head to Thommankuthu, the rural hamlet that was the home village of Manu, our first hand transplant patient.

It was big for Manu. He had both hands amputated in a train accident. While travelling in a train during one night in Kerala, Manu fought with a group of goondas who tried to manhandle a girl in his compartment. The rowdies responded, and pushed him out of the train which was travelling at full speed. Both his hands were crushed beneath the wheels and had to be taken off below the elbow joint.

He lived a semi-dependent life for two years. I had seen the young man in the waiting room with stumps in the place of hands hanging by his waist. Hope gleamed in his eyes. His life was riddled with distasteful dependence on others.

Then, two yeargo we transplanted both hands donated from a young man Binu who had died in an accident. It was the first hand transplant that was done anywhere in Asia, other than China, and obviously, India’s first. After Manu’s we did two more double-hand transplants, and the patients are doing well till now.


Manu (left) with Abdul Rahim(right)

After his post-operative recovery and one year of rehabilitative therapy, the Hospital was magnanimous enough to give Manu a job as a transplant assistant at our Department.

It was just a few months ago, that Manu, shyly showed me the photo of a young woman. I knew her.

“Hey, she is our nurse from the Rehab Department. Why are you showing me her picture?” I asked.

“I am getting married to her this February”. He said, smiling.

I smiled. I laughed. I couldn’t suppress a brief show of elation. It was startlingly pleasant news.

It was to attend the wedding reception that we started off on that afternoon, in the car of Dr. Subramaniya Iyer, the Chief Surgeon and main person behind India’s first Hand transplant. Along with him was Dr. Mohit Sharma, the person behind the technical planning, and doctors – Kishore.P, Sundeep Vijayaraghavan and I, and that completed the list of Chief Reconstructive Micro Surgeons behind the effort. There were many others involved – Nephro-immunologists, Orthopedicians, Aneasthetists, Rehabilitation specialists, Nurses etc. It was by no means an isolated achievement by a small group of people. The team required was huge. Huge!

Five of us alighted at a small village junction, and a group of people came to greet us. An old lady who looked around eighty years of age folded her hands and said –

“We all knew him. He was one of our village’s boys. We are very happy to see him married. And complete – like this” She gestured to indicate both her hands.

Manu’s family came and received us. The small house overflowed with people. In the small courtyard was a tiny makeshift stage, and Manu stood there, along with his wife. The couple was greeting the visitors. In between, Manu, in a subconscious gesture, held his wife’s hand gently.

It was a tiny, fleeting move, but it was poignantly beautiful. It showed the integration, in his mind, of another’s hands in his body. The near normal return of sensations, and the just-about-perfect use of controlled force. There was practically nothing he couldn’t do.

But it was no magic. He had to continue immune suppressing medicines for a lifetime. That was no joke. Potential complications were there. Crippling side effects could happen. The entire procedure was a study in contained risk- taking. That was why we had restricted, till now, the procedure to patients who did not have both their hands.
There was a sudden commotion and a titter rose from the assembled group of people. Binu’s father and mother had come. Manu came down and embraced both of them. The parents felt their dead son’s hands, but felt Manu’s warmth. Binu was the young man who had died. His hands now animated Manu. How difficult it would have been – I tried to imagine the plight of a mother who was informed that her son had died. And how much courage it required to offer her dead son’s hands to someone else, immediately after his death.

It was one of the noblest gestures, ever.

I moved through the crowd and shook hands with Binu’s mother. Manu saw me and offered his hand. I took it in mine. Both their hands were warm – and alive.

(I have explicit permission from Manu and wife to use their real persona in the article. The donor’s name is changed.)

Dr. Jimmy Mathew

Jimmy Mathew, MS, MCh is a Reconstructive Micro Surgeon and a writer. He has twenty five academic papers published in national and international journals. He has written four books in English (The Stethoscope and the Scalpel, Blood, Sweat and Cheers, Health and happiness Without Bullshit and Knife Edge.) and a book of memoirs in Malayalam (Chiriyilude Chikitsa). His stories and articles have been widely published in the media and he blogs at He is a part of the INFO CLINIC, a Kerala based organization sworn to fight medical misinformation and to deliver authentic health knowledge to the public.


  1. geetanjali agarkar · March 10, 2017 Reply

    hair raising story, nevertheless eye watering too

  2. Anuradha Tiwari · March 10, 2017 Reply

    Organ when attached our body do their job perfectly, we hardly feel the importance of them until we loose them.I am getting very emotional reading this wonderful article and I am really proud of those parents who took such a strong decision at the time of such great grief. After reading something like this we can still believe that humanity is still alive hats off to the entire medical team who had done such great efforts to make someone’s life complete and hats off to optimistic persons like Manu who under such difficult circumstances never let his hopes fade away.

    Anuradha Tiwari

  3. purushothaman · March 10, 2017 Reply

    Feel proud of you Jimmi

  4. Suresh Vasudevan · March 10, 2017 Reply

    Salutes to you, sir. As a volunteer for Organ Donation Awareness, and as a trained transplant co-ordinator with ZTCC, Mumbai, I have kept track of that ‘double hand transplant’ But this narration is so heart warming, while hiding the issues that Manu, and his family, may face in his life. Hope the dosage of immuno-suppressant, M anu has to take, will reduce over the years

    Keep up the good work, Doctor.

  5. Dickson K Abraham · March 10, 2017 Reply

    Thanks Doctor for this article. Appreciating your kind and great efforts in the field of organ transplantation.

  6. Gokula Nanda Rath · March 11, 2017 Reply

    Binu’s parents have done an extremely noble deed of donating hands of their deceased son to give a new life to the benevolent youth,Manu,for which they deserve salute.The team of doctors,who took a lot of pains to transplant hands quite successfully,are also highly praise-worthy.Above all,the great initiative of Organ India on this score is really commendable.

  7. Shankar · March 11, 2017 Reply

    I am an organ donor too and I too have realised the need for organ donation much before any awareness was created. One needs to be kind and sensitive. Organ donation is a very simple procedure and anything we can do to help is always appreciated and unknowingly helps someone genuinely in need. Every day a new awareness has to be created through in film branding, outdoors, leaflets. Spread the word and help donate organs for those really in need.

  8. Sanjeev · March 11, 2017 Reply

    Great work, well done the team and excellent narration.. keep it up.

  9. Radhakrishnan K A · March 11, 2017 Reply

    Dear DrJimmy Mathew
    May god bless you in all your endeavors and you come out with flying colors.Yes a great achievement indeed.

    Radhakrishnan K A

  10. Haridas Ramakrishnan · March 12, 2017 Reply

    Touching events and a suitab narrative, Dr. Jimmy. Thank you

  11. ajit nambiar · March 12, 2017 Reply

    this is undoubtedly the JOY of a LIFETIME as it encompasses many a good souls…the strength of teamwork…. and above all the MOVE ON for the central character in this all MANU…TOUCH of BLISS…. GOD BLESS U ALL….

  12. Harish Bellani · March 13, 2017 Reply

    I am a ORGAN DONOR, I do not know when I shall be a ACTUAL DONOR

  13. Dr. Nishanth B Singh · March 14, 2017 Reply

    Great Sir. Thanks for sharing this story and inspiring us.

  14. V.I. Kurian · March 14, 2017 Reply

    Well done, ‘May God bless everyone in d team”

  15. DrBhavani Chandrasekharan · March 14, 2017 Reply

    Such a great work.And what a narration !!!!!
    May God Bless you all ,the couple,the donor’s parents and all other good souls..

  16. DrBhavani Chandrasekharan · March 14, 2017 Reply

    Such a great work.And what a narration!!!!!!

  17. Manjula · March 15, 2017 Reply

    Truly motivating and inspiring towards step of organ donation.

  18. M.L.Banik · March 16, 2017 Reply

    I am very proud of such a talented and generous doctor.

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  26. Megha Jariwala · March 21, 2017 Reply

    Congratulations to the successful transplant team.
    I am a kidney donor and wish to donate my organs.
    Great job.
    Congratulations to Binu’s family. Great decisions in difficult period.

  27. Sanjay · March 21, 2017 Reply

    Great!My eyes are wet after reading this true story.I salute the parents of the donor,the team of doctors performing the surgery and each n every one associated with this noble task.May their fraternity grow!!!

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