Hand Transplant Patient Tries His “Hand” At Golf

Hand Transplant Patient Tries His "Hand" At Golf (Image 1)

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,” Rickelman says. “It's just tough,” he adds.

Rickelman 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 and his left hand was partially amputated.

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

The road to recovery lead him to Louisville, Kentucky and Jewish Hospital in 2011. That's when he became the seventh person to receive a hand transplant.

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. His kidney function…he's not diabetic. He's done extremely well,” says Dr. Michael Marvin.

Rickelman is doing so well, he's trying something where the use of his hands are a must. He says he never had the need for golf balls or clubs, but two years later he says he's ready to try to his hand at something brand new…hitting the links.

“You want to go out and hit a few?” the golf instructor asks. “Yeah,” Rickelman answered. “Okay. Let's do it,” the instructor adds. “It's a big thrill to know that I can come here, grab that club, and swing it,” Rickelman says. “I only had one hand, and that hand was damaged, so I didn't really think I'd be able to play golf,” he adds.

Any doubts he may have had about it are gone…and, while he's still developing his swing…

“Look at that! You got to be kidding me. That even felt good didn't it?” the instructor says. “Yeah,” Rickelman says.

The accuracy of his drive is spot on. Most of his golf balls are landing on the green.

“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 says.

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

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