The accident

I’m Icelandic, father of two wonderful daughters. In January 1998 I had an accident while working for the Reykjavik power company. I went into a live 11.000 volts distribution line by mistake and lost both my arms. I fell down 10 meters on a frozen ground and broke my back in 3 places.

pole_crossarm2After 7 months in a hospital and 14 months rehabilitation I came back into normal life with damaged liver and no arms. My fiancé and me had separated and I moved into my parent garage. I had lost everything. Promising career, family and health. In my mind there was not much to look forward to.

By this time I had become addicted to drugs and alcohol. The following years I used as much as I could and my condition got worse. The liver was about to shut down and I was absolutely incapable of anything. Driven by self pity and hopelessness I managed to tell myself that if I just used plant based drugs, cocaine and weed, I would not be damaging my liver. Deep down I knew my decreasing condition suggested otherwise.

In May 2001 I went to rehab after being rejected the right for a liver transplant due to my addiction. In 2002 I got transplanted, twice.
Since then I’ve been married and divorced. I have started my own business and regained my relationship with my daughters.

The doctors

220px-Jean-Michel_Dubernard_par_Claude_Truong-Ngoc_2013In 1998, the same year as my accident, a team of doctors led by Prof. Jean- Michel Dubernard performed the world’s first successful hand transplant. Being recently relived of mine I followed up on this with enthusiasm. Few months later a team in USA repeated the process but this time two hands. The only problem was that these were hands below the elbow but I was missing two whole arms. Not knowing a single word in French I tried to contact the Americans in hope of making it to their list of potential patients. Unfortunately they were not in the process of making whole arm transplant nor was I US citizen so things weren’t possible at that moment.

In Spring 2007 I was watching television when I saw that Prof.Dubernard was currently in Iceland giving a lecture at a University. He had then recently performed a face transplant. This was an opportunity I just could not miss. I had to speak to this man. With my head spinning like a washing machine I reached for the phone and started ringing the hotels in town. After few calls I stumbled onto the right one. The receptionist agreed to take my messages to Prof. Dubernard and few minutes later he called back. “ Prof. Dubernard has agreed to meet you at the hotel’s lobby tomorrow at 6pm”

The meeting

Shivering with excitement I went to the hotel the following day. There was only one question I had to get answer for. “ Do you think that anytime in close future there will be transplanted whole arms?”.
He looked at my amputation and said, “ I can’t give you an answer right now but if you send me your medical documents, x-rays and photos I can look into it for you. What ever my answer will be I want to be able to support it” I could not believe my own ears. Not only was he going to look into if these kind of operations were possible, he was going to see IF THIS PARTICULAR OPERATION WOULD BE POSSIBLE!

     I can’t give you an answer right now but if you send me your medical documents, x-rays and photos I can look into it for you. What ever my answer will be I want to be able to support it

I started to walk between institutes. First thing was collecting the medical documents. Then I needed to get them translated. I talked to the ministry of welfare. They told me they could do nothing and I should talk to the ministry of social affairs. I got an appointment with the minister herself but she also said no to me. Driven with hope I dug up the home address of former president of Iceland, Vigdis Finnbogadottir. I knew she had been a French teacher before she became president and if she could not help me she probably would know someone who could. And she did. After she arranged for the documents to be translated I sent them to France.
After reviewing them the medical team asked me to come to Lyon, France to have some tests done. Again I started walking through the public institutes for help. Again I hit closed doors everywhere. What ever the cost I had to know for sure if this could be done. I knew it would be expensive to have the surgery and I had no money but that was a problem for other times.
I stretched my credit card account and my bank accounts withdrawal limits. My parents gave me the plane ticket for Christmas and out I went.

The evaluation

with GazarianFor one week I was poked and scanned. Shit load of blood test and psychic evaluation. A few months after I got back, the team got in contact. My tests had been good so far but they needed to perform some more to be absolutely sure. Again I squeezed the bank and few family members pitched in. At the end of May 2011 I went back for the second evaluation. Due to summer vacations the team wasn’t able to give me final answer until September. With 20.000 euros in debt the summer started. The bank wanted their money back so I had to figure out something. With the help of some good people I started a charity fund and decided to run 10 km in the Reykjavik marathon. I had never been able to run more than 100 meters (330ft) so I started training.
Soon the media picked up on my goals and in August when the marathon started around 100 runners had signed up to run for my charity. I managed to raise the money and in September the French team said they were going to do this. The operation would cost about 150.000 euros + rehabilitation.

Raising funds

Through series of events and talking to lots of people I managed to raise 270.000 euros. The public of Iceland showed what they can do when someone needs them. This is probably the most emotional time in my life. The support I got came from everywhere. At the time in volunteered for a food shelter in Reykjavik and there people stood in the freezing cold waiting for a bag of groceries but still managed to hand me the little money they had to support my cause. It still brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. I will be forever grateful for the help I got.

Lyon

In June 2013 I moved to Lyon. It had taken some time to put together good team for this particular operation and we hoped that we could begin the process in the fall. When something of this scale is on the map there is always a little bit more to be done so things postponed until February 2014. This operation was “out of protocol” so the plan was to perform it within a law that said extreme operation could be done for humanitarian reasons. When the time came to put me on the list these laws were no longer active. So the protocols had to be rewritten in order for me to fit in. That process was completed in March 2015 and now I’m just waiting to be put on the list.
On this site I will be blogging about that process.

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