Matthew 12, 13: Then he said to the man, ‘stretch out your hand’. So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.
In the medical photograph you can see a hairy forearm, wrist, thumb, part of the man’s palm, and then your eyes tell you that the fingers must be stretched backwards, out of sight.
But that’s not right: the fingers are not there in the picture because they’re not there at all. This is what’s left of the hand of Chris King, aged 57, after a metal pressing machine amputated most of it – and most of his other hand, also.
In 2013, at a lighting factory near Doncaster, the machine-guard failed and his hands were scythed away. Like lightning.
Earlier this month, however, Chris wrote a thank-you letter to the doctor who sewed him a new pair.
He has achieved a remarkable level of manual dexterity since major surgery in July 2016; and there will be two more years of further progress, according to Professor Simon Kay, who took the hands of a recently deceased donor and attached them to Chris’ stumps.
Already ticked off: undoing shirt buttons, clapping, holding a cup of tea, pouring a pint. Still to do: tying shoelaces, fastening shirt buttons; then Velcro gets the long goodbye.
Bones, tendons, nerves, blood vessels: they’re all connected up and tied together. One man’s blood is flowing through another man’s fingers; though the texture of the flesh remains unusual, almost unsavoury.
Parts of the patient’s hands are pale and puffed up – you might think he was suffering from gout; and in press photographs he is seen cradling one hand with the other, as if there’s something babyish and unfinished about them.
Perhaps Chris is close to acknowledging this when we calls his hands, ‘my boys’. But at least he’s not suffering from ‘they’re not my hands’ syndrome, a hostile psychological reaction which has afflicted other beneficiaries of this ground-breaking surgery.
He only reports a life-changing operation which cancels out his life-changing accident; that, and a new-found determination to live life to the full.