Dean hopes for new hand for big day
DEAN Smahon is extremely excited about the prospect of becoming one of the first in the UK to undergo pioneering hand transplant surgery and is even hopeful his fiancée Kirsty may be able to put a ring on a new hand when they wed in the company of friends and relatives in Leeds this summer.
But if that doesn’t happen the ring will be there for the new hand when it eventually arrives.
The former Foyle and Londonderry College pupil who grew up in the Abercorn Road and Limavady Road areas before moving to Leeds where he is now a well-known DJ was one of the genuine stars of BBC documentary, ‘My New Hand,’ which aired last week.
The film followed a range of candidates as pioneering surgeon Professor Simon Kay sought the best match for the UK’s first hand transplant.
Dean also appeared on BBC early evening magazine programme, ‘The One Show,’ last Wednesday, alongside Mark Cahill - the successful subject of the first transplant.
Pop legend David Essex and TV presenters Kirstie Allsop, Matt Baker and Zoe Ball, watched transfixed as Dean and Mark told their amazing stories.
Back in October 2010, Dean, an athlete who had represented Northern Ireland at javelin, had his feet and fingers amputated after doctors said his chances of surviving the sudden onset of septicaemia were less than five per cent.
During last year’s filming for ‘My New Hand’ he was long the front-runner to become the first person in the UK to benefit from a hand transplant.
Ultimately, that didn’t happen. Dean missed out to former pub landlord Mark, who lost the use of his right hand after developing gout and undergoing a series of unsuccessful operations.
But speaking to the Sentinel this week Dean said he was pretty hopeful of being next up for the operation.
“I am so excited at the prospect of gaining a new hand and am always mindful and humbled by the generosity of the donors, as without them this whole programme would fail.
“After meeting Mark Cahill and his new hand a few days ago, I feel even more confident about the hand transplant procedure and the benefits it will bring to my life.
“More than ever I put my trust and hope firmly in God and rest happily knowing whatever happens it is in His hands and I feel extremely blessed.”
Dean has perhaps an even more important date than the surgery this summer and is cautiously hopeful a good match can be found in time for the occasion.
He and girlfriend Kirsty - who received the shocking news in 2010 that Dean’s blood was “incompatible with life” and that he had only a five per cent chance of surviving - are to wed in Leeds, with a squad of friends and family making the journey from Londonderry for the nuptials.
The local man had the guests and studio of ‘The One Show’ oohing and ahhing last week when he told them: “We’re getting married now in June this year so it would be nice to put a ring on it.”
Dean told the Sentinel he had mixed emotions when he lost out in the bid for the first hand transplant, having been a front-runner for so long, but says that having met Mark for the first time last week he was delighted for his colleague.
He also said he received good news when speaking to Professor Kay last week. The top doctor is now extending the search for a donor outside the general Leeds and Yorkshire areas.
“They are hoping to go nationwide now to look for a hand for me, basically, so hopefully that will be in the offing soon,” he said.
The popular night club DJ was full of praise for Professor Kay, who he described as “a pioneer and a world leader” in this area.
Equally, Dean underlined the importance of donors coming forward when speaking to the Sentinel this week. He said depending on the right people coming forward, his life could be transformed.
His message comes as another Londonderry man - Dungiven barrister Joe Brolly - campaigns for an opt-out system for organ donation in Northern Ireland.
Traditionally, organ donation has been associated with the tranplantation of internal organs. Perhaps now given Mark’s progress and Dean’s prospects any future legislation can be extended to include hands, as well.
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