Arm transplants hold promise for veterans - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Arm transplants hold promise for veterans

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BALTIMORE -

Brendan Marrocco is excited to have two new arms and he's quickly learned to use them.

"I've been using the hands to text and use computer and scratch my face and do my hair," he said. "They've truly become a part of my everyday life in the last two weeks."

The 26-year-old Army veteran lost his arms and legs in a roadside bombing four years ago in Iraq. The surgery, which attached arms from a deceased donor, was extremely complicated, connecting bones, blood vessels, muscles, tendons, nerves and skin.

"It's given me a lot of hope for the future," Marrocco said.

Surgeons and specialists from around the country practiced on cadavers and last month, performed the 13-hour surgery at Johns Hopkins hospital. The medical team also gave Marrocco bone marrow from the donor to help his body accept the new limbs.

"He will only take one anti-rejection medication," said Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee, the head surgeon.

Doctors say Marrocco is now healed enough to leave the hospital, but he won't head back to his home in Staten Island just yet. He has to return here nearly every day for several months for hours of physical therapy.

"The nerves regenerate one inch per month," Lee said.

And when that function returns, Marrocco wants to get behind the wheel of his new Dodge Charger.

"I can't give up because I haven't driven it yet!" he said.

It's waiting for him in his garage at home.

About 300 American servicemen and servicewomen have lost arms or hands in the war.

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