US Army Infantryman Becomes First Soldier to Successfully Undergo Double-Arm Transplant

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A US Army Infantryman has undergone a successful, extremely rare double-arm transplant that may help him regain the use of his arms. The now 26-year-old Brendan Marrocco of Staten Island became the first service member from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive the loss of four limbs after a military vehicle he was driving was struck by a bomb on Easter of 2009.

Marrocco is one of only seven people in the country to successfully undergo the surgery, and the first quadruple-amputee soldier, according to Johns Hopkins.

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.

The team of surgeons rehearsed the procedure on cadaver arms four times over the past 18 months, said lead surgeon Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee, director of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins.

According to the doctor, Marrocco’s recovery will be ‘long and risky.’ His therapy will continue for years.

“Now, I can move my left elbow,” Marrocco said. “This was my elbow, the one I had before. I can rotate a little bit. This (right) arm is pretty much not much movement at all — not yet at least. Hopefully, we are hopeful for the future to get some pretty good function out of it, out of both of them.”

…The thing he’s looking forward to most? “Driving. Absolutely, driving. I used to love to drive and it was a lot of fun for me. So, I am really looking forward to getting back to that. And just becoming an athlete again. One of my goals is to hand-cycle a marathon.”

In a world of fiscal cliffs, debt-ceilings, gun control debates, border security bickering, and partisan politics, it is refreshing to have a story we can ALL be happy about.

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