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Man who received world’s first double arm transplant can eat on his own again

"I can put stuff in my mouth for the first time in almost 24 years."

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By Fiona Jackson via SWNS

A man who underwent the first full double arm transplant in the world can finally use his fingers, nine months after the op.

Felix Gretarsson, 49, had to have his arms amputated after he was electrocuted at work.

After decades without them, he received a double arm and shoulder transplant in a 15-hour surgery, in January this year.

The dad has shocked surgeons with his incredible progress and is now able to pick up and eat food with his transplanted arms.

Felix demonstrated his newfound sensations by picking up and eating pieces of clementine on camera - with a massive smile on his face.

He said: "It is like I'm getting a gift every week with something a little bit more.

"I can put stuff in my mouth for the first time in almost 24 years.

"I can eat a croissant if my wife breaks it down into little pieces, I can grab things if they are not very heavy."

He can also shake people's hands.

"It's not a very strong handshake, but as everyone just wants to just tap an elbow now, I can just tap an elbow," said Felix.

Felix, from Kópavogur, Iceland, was electrocuted while trying to fix a powerline and both his arms were set on fire in 1998.

He had 54 operations while in a three-month-long coma - and doctors had to remove both of his arms to save his life.

Felix tracked down a world-renowned surgeon and begged him to perform a never-before-attempted transplant - moving halfway across the world to be in line.

On the 23 year anniversary of his accident, he had a double arm and shoulder transplant in a 15-hour surgery, in January this year.

Thanks to hundreds of hours of rehabilitation work, six months on he could move his elbows while in water.

After nine months, he announced to his followers on social media that he could even move his fingers which was not expected until he was two years post-op.

The sensation started coming back into his palm in early October, and he started to get the feeling that he could move his fingers.

He said: "It is a gradual process, the sensation is a little bit different, it's different nerves.

"The sensation is coming quicker than the functionality.

"In the beginning, I was not quite sure if I was moving the finger or I was moving something else and the finger was tagging along."

Gradually his middle finger and ring finger started to move with his index finger, which left his surgical team gobsmacked.

"They were giggling like small boys, taking videos because they couldn't believe I was moving the fingers."

"Now I can move all three of them and I can move the wrist towards me.

"When we did this operation it was if I can move my elbow the operation is a success, now I'm moving the elbow, shoulders and fingers and we are just nine months into the process.

"It's much, much quicker and better than we thought."

The former electrician, who now lives in Lyon, France, now has very strong feelings in both his arms and is making amazing progress every day.

He added: "What would make me satisfied, apart from masturbating, is independence!

"I can go to a café and I don't have to ask somebody to go into my pocket to get the change.

"To take a shower and just not be dependent on people in these daily tasks.

"I love DIY, I was an electrician because I loved working with my hands and I still collect tools.

"So being able to use them and do some DIY, that's my passion."

Felix's accident occurred on January 12, 1998, when was sent to fix a line that carried enough electricity to power 500 homes.

There was confusion about how far he needed to go down the power line to get to the part that needed fixing, and he grabbed the wrong wire.

He was electrocuted and fell 32ft to the ground.

"I didn't remember until years after, but I fell down and I remember the only thing I felt was pain in the belly and confusion.

"With trauma like this, the body shuts off. I had no feeling of burning arms and broken back. It was just complete shock."

As well as breaking his back in three places and fracturing his neck, Felix's arms were set on fire.

He woke up from an induced coma three months later finding his arms had been amputated.

In 2007, Felix saw an advert on the television for a lecture at the University of Iceland by renowned surgeon Dr. Jean-Michel Dubernard, most famous for performing the first successful hand transplant in 1998.

He tracked him down and the surgeon said there was a possibility of a double arm transplant, but he would need to move to France so his team to do the appropriate preparations.

Four years later, surgeons accepted his application, and Felix launched a nationwide fundraising campaign in Iceland to help pay for the €200,000 operation.

In 2013, he moved away from Iceland to Lyon and, in 2017, the search began for a potential donor.

Finally, on January 11 this year, he got the call saying a suitable donor had been found.

"I'd had phone calls before that we had a potential donor but when it came to getting the family to accept they'd always refuse," he said.

"The disappointment of knowing that they were going to bury these arms in the ground to rot instead of giving them to you; I was crushed."

But the next day, the 23 year anniversary of his accident, he went to L'hôpital Edouard Herriot to receive his groundbreaking transplants.

Doctors told Felix that nerves grow on average a millimeter every day, so estimate they'll reach his elbow in a year, and his hands in two.

The grandad-of-two said: "I have achieved something that wasn't supposed to be possible if I wouldn't have pushed it and pushed it.

"It took a long time, but just because I was certain it would happen I didn't know who was going to do it or how, I didn't know where the money would come from.

"But when the goal is clear you always find a way.

"Sometimes the bad things that happen to us are the reason the good things can happen to us further down the line.

"If I hadn't lost my arms I wouldn't be living in France with my wife today.

"So many good things you can take from this - this is what has kept me going.

"There's always a silver lining to everything."

You can follow Felix's journey on his Instagram @felix_gretarsson

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