A rugby league veteran who became Britain’s first hand transplant patient returns to the sports field tomorrow .
But Mark Cahill, 52, of Greetland, won’t be playing.
Instead, as chairman of Elland ARLFC, he will be leading the team out at a charity match – and then presenting the Man of the Match trophy named in his honour.
Dad-of-three Mark – born and brought up in Lindley – lost use of his right hand due to severe gout.
In December last year he underwent pioneering eight-hour surgery at Leeds General Infirmary when a donor hand became available.
Now, nine months later, his recovery is ahead of schedule.
He now has some feeling in his hand and movement in his thumb.
Tomorrow, Mark will lead out the Elland first team as they take on an Elland Yorkshire Cup Legends team, made up of players from the early 2000s, at a club fundraising day at Greetland Community Centre.
Mark, who played for Elland in four decades from the age of 17 to 39, will present the Man of the Match with the Mark Cahill Right Hand Memorial Trophy!
“It’s all in good fun,” said Mark. “They were looking for a name for the trophy and decided on this because I’m a little bit in the news at the moment.”
Mark appreciates the rugby club humour and revealed this week how he almost chopped off his new little finger three months after the transplant.
While making a sandwich he sliced through his finger – but felt no pain.
“There was no ‘ouch’ because the nerve endings hadn’t yet grown,” he said. “The doctors weren’t very pleased.”
The medics repaired the damage and Mark’s recovery is back on track.
It is thought it could take up to two-and-a-half years for full feeling and movement to return but Mark thinks he’s ahead of schedule.
“It’s all going really well,” he said. “I have semi-feeling back and can feel hot and cold.
“It’s still early days but the thumb has started working.
“With the fingers we have to wait for the nerves to grow back into the palm of the hand to operate the muscles.
“It can be two-and-a-half years but I think it will be quicker than that.”
Mark said he has had no trouble accepting he has someone else’s hand.
“It just feels like my other hand,” he said.
The procedure allowed a delicate restoration of the nerve structures. It is believed the operation was the first time such a technique was used.
The fun day, with various stalls and activities, has three junior matches from noon followed by the veterans’ game at 1.30pm.
Among those playing for the veterans will be former Bradford Northern pack star Karl Fairbank, 50, first team coach at Elland.