The announcement of Canada’s first successful hand transplant operation had special meaning for Saba University School of Medicine. Giancarlo McEvenue, MD, a 2010 Saba grad, was a member of the team of surgeons who took part in this landmark achievement in Canadian medicine.
“It was a privilege to be part of this team and to take part in an operation that was the first in Canada but is still quite new around the world as well,” said McEvenue, who is currently a senior resident in the Division of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Toronto.
A native of Toronto, McEvenue completed an undergraduate honours degree in Human Biology at the University of Toronto before heading to Saba for his medical degree. “My dream was always to come back to Canada and make a difference as a physician. Being a resident here and now taking part in this incredible operation is something I could never have imagined. My medical journey started long ago back on Saba and I feel like now this is the culmination of a lot of hard work and perseverance.”
The 14-hour operation was performed at Toronto Western Hospital. The surgery involves attaching the donor arm to the recipient stump using steel plates and screws and then connecting arteries, nerves and veins. The team prepared for over a year to get ready for the operation led by Dr. Steven McCabe, director of the Toronto Western Hospital’s hand and upper extremity transplant program. Dr. McCabe was also part of the team that completed the first successful American hand transplant in Louisville, Kentucky in 1999.
“It’s an incredible team effort,” said McEvenue. “In such a long and complex operation you are depending on the experience, knowledge and technical ability of everyone on the team to make it a success. It was really something special to be part of and all of us will always remember it.”
While 110 transplants have been completed around the world, this was the first time it was done in Canada. The surgery’s success means the procedure will likely become more widely available to Canadian patients and future planning for the next transplant has already begun.
*Home Page Photo: University of Toronto, University Health Network.
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