By Fiona Jackson via SWNS
The man who underwent the world's first full double arm transplant 16 months ago can now work out at the gym and hug his grandchildren.
Felix Gretarsson, 49, had to have his arms amputated after he was electrocuted at work.
After decades without them, he convinced a surgeon to perform a double arm and shoulder transplant in a 15-hour surgery, in January 2021.
The dad has shocked surgeons with his incredible progress and is now able to brush his teeth, walk and throw balls for his dog and hug his kids with his transplanted arms.
Video even shows the moment Felix got to hug his daughter for the first time since she was a three-month-old baby, and her children too.
He said: “After watching them as little babies crying and being unable to hold them it was indescribable."
“Certain little things like holding my wife and my kids, but also the perception of my hands.
“Just this morning we took our dogs for a walk and I was putting my hand out the window and feeling the wind on my hand, it was a very weird moment.
"Being able to scratch without rubbing yourself on some furniture - you don’t realize when you lose your hands how often a day you need to touch your nose or your eyes or scratch your head, and now I'm just constantly doing it.”
He demonstrates his new skills in a series of videos taken over the past three weeks, including cleaning his patio with a pressure hose.
“It’s my 50th birthday next week so I’ve been going berserk trying to clean the residence for the party in the garden!” he said.
“At some point, you just feel you are ready to do it, the movement starts to come but there is no strength at the beginning, just a little fraction of nerves in the muscle so I can contract the muscles to a degree.”
While he could use his feet to drive the car prior to the operation, he used a steering wheel with his hands for the first time.
He said: “I am just taking my foot off when I'm driving very slowly when there is no danger and I am managing to hold onto the steering wheel and swing the car back and forth over a little distance.
“The first time I let go of the steering wheel on the floor, that was awesome.”
To build up the muscles in his new arms, Felix, from Kópavogur, Iceland, has now started to go to the gym to exercise.
He said: I'm not putting any serious weight on, I'm trying to put on muscles but at the same time growing nerves
“I’m using the movement to command the nerves to go there, that’s the basics of my rehabilitation.
“It’s super challenging and frustrating as hell constantly trying to do something and the muscles don’t move, but the reward is incredible when all of a sudden these movements start to manifest.”
Last month Felix held a mobile phone for the first time in his life, as his accident occurred in 1988.
Prior to the transplant, he would lick or use his nose to tap the screen.
He started to notice the temperature in his arms and hands a few months ago, and the sensation gets clearer for him every day.
“At some point, I was a little bit confused if hot or cold but now if my put my hands under the sink I can feel the temperature instantly.
“We have this marble on our kitchen counter and I just put my arms up on the table and I felt the cold with my hand, it was amazing.
“The arms down to the wrists feel well attached and I can feel them, and I can feel every part of the hand but it is still not perfect.
“The hands have a much more complicated nervous system than the arms, you touch something with your elbow or tip of the finger, it's a completely different sensation.
“I am still progressing I have hope that I will get much more out of this.”
Felix 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.
So he 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 finally received his double arm and shoulder transplant.
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 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 2021, 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.
Felix 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. He was sent out 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 a 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 could 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 in France and, in 2017, the search began for a potential donor.
Finally, on January 11 2021, 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 getting 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 Hopital Edouard Herriot to receive his new arms.
Doctors told Felix that nerves grow on average a millimeter every day, and estimated they'll reach his elbow in under a year, and his hands in about 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."
He put together a compilation video of his accomplishments to present at a medical conference and demonstrate his progress.
Felix posted it on his Instagram, where it since went viral.
He said: “They had done some hand transplants and at least two or three where they went above the elbow but of course, nobody had gone and taken the shoulder!
“When we did the operation the goal was to flex my right elbow, they weren’t hopeful I could flex the left side - but now I’m moving elbows, shoulders, wrists and fingers.
“So I'm kind of living in a fairy-tale, there's always something new.”
He hopes his operation will soon become available for anyone that needs it.
Stories and infographics by ‘Talker Research’ are available to download & ready to use. Stories and videos by ‘Talker News’ are managed by SWNS. To license content for editorial or commercial use and to see the full scope of SWNS content, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or submit an inquiry via our contact form.
What Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso and Steve Jobs all had in common
It is estimated one-in-five people have the condition.
Dad bod dude beats the heat by swimming in a public fountain
The man, sporting a "dad-bod", can be seen doing breaststroke through the shallow waters as the person filming asks: "What...
Scientists invent robot fish that swims around hoovering up microplastics
It measures just half an inch from nose to tail.
Study: Baby blues can affect both parents at the same time
Symptoms include excessive anxiety, not being able to stop crying and feelings of hopelessness.
Why fake meat is less nutritious than the real thing
Experiments found human cells take in fewer proteins from the vegan versions - because they are harder to absorb.
Lifestyle3 days ago
Private island with a 17th Century villa on market for $2.2 million
Travel2 days ago
Man completes first-ever commute in an $83k space-age flying car
Sports2 days ago
6-year-old golf prodigy hopes to follow in the footsteps of his PGA-pro dad
Good News3 days ago
Mom cries tears of joy after hearing her autistic son speak for first time
Animals1 day ago
Florida men catch python believed to be the biggest in the state’s history
Food & Drink3 days ago
Bar charging $98.37 for one pint of beer
Funny4 days ago
9-year-old goes viral after passing out on theme park ride
Video4 days ago
Watch: Retired pilot pulls Top Gun-style stunts