Category: Science / January 30, 2013 4:29 PM EST
A retired U.S. Army sergeant who underwent a double arm transplant after losing both arms and both legs in Iraq was discharged from The Johns Hopkins Hospital on Tuesday (January 29), saying he was anxious to get back to an active life.
Sgt. Brendan Marrocco, 26, of Staten Island, New York, had the successful bilateral arm transplant surgery six weeks ago at the renowned Baltimore hospital.
"I never really accepted the fact I didn't have arms so now that I have them again it's almost like it never happened. It's like I went back four years and I'm me again," Marrocco said at a news conference announcing his discharge.
Driving, swimming and hand cycling top his list, he said.
A roadside bomb attack in Iraq in 2009 cost him all four limbs.
"I just want to get the most out of these arms and just as goals come up knock them down and just take it as absolutely as far as I can," Marrocco said.
Double-arm transplant surgery is rare, and doctors said this was the first such successful procedure to be conducted at Johns Hopkins. Also, officials have said Marrocco is the first U.S. soldier in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to survive losing all four limbs.
W.P. Andrew Lee, the doctor who headed the transplant team, said although the surgery was successful, it will be a few years before Marrocco's nerves regenerate and he regains significant use of his arms.
Dr. Jamie Shores, an assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery and a member of the surgical team, said Marrocco had exceeded doctors' hopes by finding creative ways to use his new limbs despite the medical team's cautious expectations for his mobility at this stage.
"We're the ones holding him back at this point," Shores said.
Marrocco wheeled himself into the news conference, during which he pushed his hair back several times with his left arm. He said his right arm and both hands have little or no feeling or movement.
"We'll get there," Marrocco said. Visibly in high spirits, the war veteran laughed and joked and said a positive attitude and stubborn nature helped sustain him through his ordeal.
"We're hopeful for the future to get some pretty good function out of it. Out of both of them." he said.
Marrocco's family said that besides his pain, he has been doing well.
"I honestly believe that it's that stubbornness and that unwilling to give up that gets him through his daily challenges and he's that much a better person for it," said Alex Marrocco, his father.
Doctors said Marrocco will spend up to six hours a day in physical therapy.
The rare surgery took 13 hours and involved 16 doctors who volunteered from plastic surgery, orthopedics and other disciplines, the hospital said.
It was largely funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, with the remainder of the cost contributed by the hospital, according to Lee.
Video Source: Reuters, Johns Hopkins