Okay, so it’s not quite as cool as growing a new ear on someone’s arm (like Johns Hopkins did last year), but this is still pretty impressive: surgeons performed a rare double arm transplant on a soldier who lost both arms and legs in Iraq on Easter, 2009.
Brendan Marrocco was just 22 when a makeshift bomb struck the military vehicle he was driving. Marrocco, who the Washington Post describes as “a determined, soft-spoken young man,” was the first service member in Iraq/Afghanistan to have survived the loss of all four limbs. In the years since the accident, he’s endured multiple surgeries and trips to the hospital.
That all culminated in an epic pre-Christmas operation at Johns Hopkins, in which doctors joined Marrocco’s remaining muscle/bone/blood vessels/skin/nerves to those in the donor arms, thus becoming the nation’s 7th successful recipient of a double arm transplant.
The surgery team was led by W.P. Andrew Lee, who has overseen about half of the U.S. arm transplants to date. According to the Post, Lee revealed that previous arm transplant patients have learned to tie shoes, use chopsticks, and put their hair in ponytails with their new arms. As opposed to prosthetics, which many young people don’t like to use, Lee said, a limb transplant “has additional advantage for the patient to be restored whole. Once they’re transplanted, they regard the arm as theirs. And I think they’re more comfortable going out on social occasions, as opposed to wearing a prosthetic.”
Judging from Marrocco’s Twitter feed, he’s currently in good spirits, fending off attention from fellow Twitter users like “USAF_Bombshell” and making jokes about how he really needs to work on his farmer’s tan this year. If you want to contribute to Marrocco’s recovery, charitable donations are accepted here.
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