Your Healthy Family

Jan 30, 2013 9:46 AM by Marissa Torres

Soldier undergoes double arm transplant

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore have accomplished a major feat - a double arm transplant on a soldier who lost both of his arms and both of his legs in Iraq. Medical advances aside, it's the patients upbeat attitude that may have been the key to the surgery's success.

26 year old Brendan Marrocco doesn't seem like a guy who's been through so much. Brendan was serving as an army infantryman in Iraq in 2009, when he was severely injured in a road side blast. He lost both of his arms and both of his legs.

Legs, he says, he could live without. But his arms, he hated losing them.

"Even your personality - you talk with your hands. You do everything with your hands. When you don't have that, you're kind of lost for a while."

6 weeks ago, a huge team of surgeons at the Johns Hopkins Hospital performed a complicated, successful double arm transplant on Brendan. To cut down on the need for anti-rejection drugs, which carry the potential for infections and organ damage, the Johns Hopkins team gave Brendan an infusion of the deceased donor's bone marrow cells.

"He will take one anti-rejection medication instead of the usual triple drug cocktail," says Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee.

Full range of movement will take years because nerves grow at a maximum speed of 1 inch per month.

"I suspect he will be using his hands for just about everything as soon as we let him," says Dr. Jaimie Shores.

But Brendan is itching to do more, already finding creative ways to comb his hair, even text. He has some advice for others overcoming hardships.

"There's a lot of people who will say you can't do something. Just be stubborn and do it anyway. Work your (BLEEP) off to do it."

Brendan has a tremendous amount of work ahead of him, 6 hours a day of intensive hand therapy. He's already proven he's up to the challenge.



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