Double-arm transplant soldier 'excited for the future'
A 26-year-old who lost all of his limbs in a bombing in Iraq in 2009 has received a rare double-arm transplant. NBCNews.com’s Dara Brown reports.
The soldier who lost all four limbs in an IED explosion in Iraq in 2009, showed the world his newly transplanted arms Tuesday.Brendan Marrocco, 26, the first soldier to survive after losing all four limbs, received his new arms in a 13-hour operation that involved 16 surgeons on December 18 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
“I feel like I’m getting a second chance to start over after I got hurt,” Marrocco, an infantryman who was injured by a roadside bomb attack in Iraq in 2009, said during a news conference at the hospital. “I’m excited for the future.”
Marrocco received his two new arms from a deceased donor, becoming one of only seven people in the United States who have undergone successful double-hand transplants.
His transplants involved the connection of bones, blood vessels, muscles, tendons, nerves and skin on both arms, and was the most extensive and complicated limb transplant procedure so far performed in the U.S., according to a hospital statement.Brendan Marrocco, who lost all four of his limbs in a 2009 bomb attack in Iraq, talks about his road to recovery after receiving a double-arm transplant and what he is looking forward to accomplishing.
Though doctors say it will take years for Marrocco to fully recover, it appeared as he brushed the hair from his forehead with his left arm at the news conference, that he may get there far faster than predicted.
The main limiting factor in recovery is the slow growth of nerves, said the surgical team’s leader, Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee, plastic surgery chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Dr. Jamie Shores agreed.
“We expect it will take two to three years to see what that final function will be,” said Shores, the hospital's clinical director of hand transplantation. "The nerves make the muscles work as well as giving sensation.”
As Marrocco continues to regain strength in his new arms, he said he was looking forward to swimming and driving. He was in high spirits as he answered questions about how he’d be spending the rest of his life.
“He was showing me how he was now able to tie shoe laces with his transplanted hands,” Lee said of the previous patient. “Also, in addition to being able to tie his shoes, he sent us a video of him using chopsticks with his transplanted hand.”
In reality, Marrocco likely won’t have much spare time. “He’ll be doing therapy to make his hands work six hours a day,” Shores said. “There’s no amount of surgery we can do to make something work if the patients aren’t going to put an incredible amount of effort into this afterwards. He isn’t just sitting a home playing video games. It’s a full time job. That’s why we picked him. He’s demonstrated how hard he’s willing to work. He’s go that fighting spirit.”
Not to miss the last word, Marrocco said with a smile, “I think video games can be great therapy.”
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