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Quadruple amputee soldier gifted with two transplanted arms

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 29th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A former soldier who became the first quadruple amputee to survive the loss of all four limbs in the Afghanistan, Iraq wars has undergone a rare double arm transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, the hospital said Monday. The 26-year-old Brendan Marrocco of Staten Island underwent the marathon surgery last month.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Marrocco lost both legs above the knee, his left arm below the elbow and his right arm above the elbow when a military vehicle he was driving in Iraq was struck by a powerful makeshift bomb on Easter in 2009.

Marrocco has endured numerous surgeries, return trips to the hospital and setbacks, had been waiting for the transplants for years.

On December 18, in a complex, multi-hour operation in which bundles of his muscle, bone, blood vessels, skin and nerves were joined with those of a deceased donor. Surgeons had to rely on microscopes during the procedure.

"He's doing well," Marrocco's father said. "Doing well. It's been a little over a month now."

Marrocco is the first service member to receive a double arm transplant. He is one of only seven people in the United States who have undergone successful double arm transplants.

Marrocco later received an infusion of bone marrow derived from vertebrae taken from the donor's lower spine.

The infusion will allow doctors to reduce the number of powerful anti-rejection drugs they use to a single medication, which is beneficial as the anti-rejection drugs can have harmful side effects, possibly leading to infection, organ damage or cancer.

Performed by a special team of transplant experts headed by W.P. Andrew Lee, professor and chairman of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the hospital, the facility says that it was the first limb transplant by the newly established group at Hopkins.

Lee says that transplanted arms are never going to have 100 percent of the function of the limbs they replace. He added that arm transplant patients have learned to tie shoes, use chopsticks and put their hair in ponytails.

Lee said there have been about 80 arms transplanted in about 60 patients so far around the world.

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