A woman who suffered a devastating injury more than 10 years ago is “absolutely delighted” that she can finally use her right hand again following life-changing surgery at the Royal Free Hospital.

After falling on her hand ten years ago in Jamaica, Sherica Harper was forced to learn to write again when doctors failed to operate on her properly, leaving her with a hand set at a 90 degree angle.

Sherica, 32, who lives in Neasden, said: “I had to learn to do everything again after the accident. I couldn’t dress myself, I struggled to write or do simple tasks, it was a really awful time.”

Thankfully, when Sherica came to hospital for an unrelated issue, a doctor noticed her bent hand and questioned what had happened. She was referred to the Royal Free Hospital where surgeons Mr Neil Toft and Mr Dariush Nikkhah came to the rescue. 

Pictured L-R: Mr Dariush Nikkhah and Mr Neil Toft

A combination of tendon lengthening, bone shortening and soft tissue reconstruction surgery helped return Sherica’s hand to its normal position.

She said: “I was nervous of surgery and felt very apprehensive. But the surgeons genuinely cared about my wellbeing which I felt was remarkable given how many other patients they had in their clinics.

“It takes a lot to prepare yourself mentally. I didn’t want another doctor and I didn’t want to have to tell my story all over again but I hadn’t reckoned on Mr Dariush Nikkhah. His eyes lit up when he saw me and he said, “I’m positive I can help you”. He made me feel like I could give it another push.”

Mr Nikkhah told Sherica he had been shocked at the state of her hand when he opened it up. The tendons, courtesy of Mr Toft, were now in good shape, but the rest was much worse than he had anticipated. With the help of Mr Onur Berber, an orthopaedic hand surgeon, and Mr Yazan Ajam, a plastic surgeon, Mr Nikkhah led the team in a challenging six-hour operation to correct Sherica’s hand to a functional position.

And following this last surgery in August, Sherica is already feeling the benefits. 

She said: “I can’t open a jar yet, but I’ve been assured that will come. It may seem like a silly thing but I’m absolutely delighted I can clap and yes, I’m clapping the team who made it happen!. I’m also learning to write again and can now type two handed. I’m doing a masters in social work and I love to create poetry so it’s absolutely fantastic being able to use both my hands.” 

Dariush said: “It’s great to hear how Sherica is getting on. It can be a long journey to recovery but we do our absolute best to help people regain the use of their hands to enable them to live their everyday lives and pursue their passions.

“We’re a team of 19 plastic and reconstructive surgeons and collaborate with other specialities to work on everything from cancer cases to complex trauma. I’ve replaced missing thumbs with toes and we do a lot of ‘free flap’ surgery where we transplant skin from one part of the body to another by reattaching the bloody supply using an operating microscope. We’re an amazing team and get brilliant results thanks to the incredible nurses, doctors, therapists and other specialities that support us.”