Veteran with double arm transplant an inspiration

January 29, 2013 3:30:36 PM PST
We have the extraordinary story of an Iraq war veteran who lost all four of his limbs when a roadside bomb hit his vehicle Easter Sunday four years ago. Tuesday, he left the hospital after a double arm transplant that gives hope to both injured veterans and civilian amputees alike.

"I was still alive, so that's really all that mattered to me," Brendan Marrocco said.

But life without limbs took away his independence, so when Marrocco was offered a chance to have a double arm transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, he didn't hesitate.

"I've overcome so much in the last four years that I'm honestly not worried about the risks," he said.

He received the complicated double arm transplant in December where surgeons connected bones, blood vessels, muscles, nerves and skin. When Marrocco woke up from surgery, he was elated.

"I was happy the surgery was over and I had arms," he said. "So yeah, 'I love you' was the first thing I said."

He was discharged from the hospital Tuesday and he showed his arms to reporters.

"Currently, I don't have feeling or movement in the hands yet, but we'll get there," Marrocco said. "Arms feel great, no pain anymore and things are healing up very well."

Doctors say it could take several years before he is fully able to use his new arms.

He's the seventh American to have a successful double arm transplant. His surgery took 16 surgeons and 13 hours.

They also gave him bone marrow from the donor to help his immune system accept the new arms.

The 26-year-old veteran had a message for other amputees: "There are a lot of people who will say you can't do something," he said. "Just be stubborn and do it anyway."

Results from other transplanted arm surgeries have been good, although they don't have 100 percent of the function of the limbs they replace. Doctors say patients have learned to tie shoes, use chopsticks and put their hair in ponytails using their transplanted arms.

There have been about 80 arms transplanted in about 60 patients worldwide.

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