Thirteen years ago, he lost both hands in a letter bomb explosion. Now the Austrian police officer tours the globe alone on his motorbike, undeterred by a double hand transplant.
His motto, he likes to point out, is: "never give up."
Theo Kelz, a medical wonder with an iron will, was one the victims of mail bomber Franz Fuchs, who terrorised Austria from 1993 until his arrest in 1997 with a wave of xenophobic attacks that killed four people and seriously injured 15.
The 53-year-old bomb disposal expert from Carinthia in southern Austria was attempting to defuse a mail bomb delivered to a school in Klagenfurt on August 24, 1994 when it exploded, ripping off his hands.
"For six years, I had an obsession: to have new hands" instead of prosthetic limbs, he told a press conference to present his latest motorbike tour around the northern hemisphere.
After pleading with almost 50 surgeons in Austria and around the world, Kelz finally got his two hands in March 2000. He was the second person only to receive a double hand transplant, two months after surgeon Jean-Michel Dubernard performed the world's first such operation on a man in France.
The first double hand transplant on a woman took place last November in Spain, when news reports said it was the seventh such operation worldwide.
Kelz' surgery lasted 17 hours and was performed by transplant specialist Raimund Margreiter at Innsbruck University Hospital in western Tyrol.
"I did 5,000 hours of rehabilitation because after six years, the cerebral cortex had forgotten how to use hands," the police officer said.
The bearded Kelz, who looks more like a professor than a bomb expert, talks with his hands and is quite agile, even managing to unbutton his shirt sleeves, albeit with a little difficulty, to show off the scars on his forearms.
"I don't feel any pain at all in my hands," Kelz tPage: 1 2 3 Related medicine news :1
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