Brendan Marrocco underwent a Double Arm Transplant

Brendan Marrocco received a Double Arm Transplant

“A True Miracle”

In 2009, Brendan Marrocco was driving an armored vehicle in Iraq.  The last thing he remembers is an explosion.  He woke up at Walter Reid Medical Center without his arms and legs.

Last month, the 26 year old infantryman underwent a double arm transplant at Johns Hopkins University.  He is only one of seven people to successfully undergo the procedure, and the first double amputee soldier.

“It feels amazing,” Marrocco told reporters Wednesday. “It is something that I was waiting for for a long time, and now that it happened, I don’t know what to say, because it is such a big thing for my life.”

“When it happened, I didn’t remember too much,” Marrocco said.

“I was still alive, so that’s really all that mattered to me at the time.”

The surgery, which took 13 hours and 16 orthopaedic and microvascular surgeons from five hospitals — was also the first bilateral arm transplant performed at Johns Hopkins. All of the surgeons volunteered their services; the surgery and rehabilitation costs were paid by the Department of Defense’s Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine and Hopkins.  They had practiced on cadavers four times in 18 months.

“On his right side we did an above-elbow transplant by connecting the bone, muscles, blood vessels, nerves and skin between the donor and recipient,” Lee said. On Marrocco’s left side, “in order to preserve the elbow joint, we transplanted the entire donor forearm muscles over his remaining tissues, then rerouted the nerves to the new muscle.”

The entire process will proceed for several years to come.  The nerves only regenerate at the level of one inch per month.  He is taking anti-rejection drugs, and was give bone marrow transplants to aid in the process.  For the next 2-3 years he will undergo hand therapy for 6 hours a day, seven days a week.

Marrocco says he’s up to it.  The one thing he is looking forward to the most is driving a car again.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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