BALTIMORE (RNN) - A soldier who lost all four of his limbs in Iraq has successfully undergone a double arm transplant.
In what Johns Hopkins Hospital calls the most complicated limb transplant procedure ever performed in the U.S., doctors surgically attached the arms to Brendan Marrocco, who lost his limbs in 2009 in a roadside bomb attack.
Marrocco, joined by a team of surgeons, showed the new arms to the media on Tuesday. The procedure was performed on Dec. 18 of last year.
"It's given me a lot of hope for the future. I feel like I'm getting a second chance to start over after I got hurt. So I'm excited, excited for the future and see where I can go with it," Marrocco, 26, said.
Surgeons also transplanted bone marrow to help prevent rejection of the limbs.
Marrocco, who completed his training at Fort Benning, GA before being assigned to the 25th Infantry Division based at Schofield Barracks, HI, was the first soldier to ever survive losing all four limbs.
He says six weeks out from the operation, he can move his right elbow, which was the elbow he was born with, not an attachment.
He isn't yet able to move his left arm, but says he is hopeful "to get some pretty good function out of it" in the future.
"The nerves regenerate at a maximum speed of one inch per month, so considering where we did the transplant, where the nerves were connected, there are many, many inches and many, many months - a couple of years, for that matter - before function will return. That's exactly what we expect," said lead surgeon Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee.
The arms and bone marrow came from a deceased donor. Marrocco says he is "humbled by their gift."
"They are certainly changing my life and thank you."
He is one of only seven people in the U.S. to successfully undergo a double arm transplant.
Marrocco says in addition to losing his limbs in the blast, he received 70 stitches in his face and experienced a severed carotid artery and a broken nose.
Last last year, he suffered a setback of another kind - Hurricane Sandy destroyed the first floor of his New York home.
The "smart home" was specially built for him and is designed to make life - and all the tasks that come with it - accessible for a wounded warrior.
The home has an elevator, and the lighting is controlled by sensors. It also features controls to raise and lower the sink and stove.
Marrocco lived in a hotel and then an apartment while waiting for the home to be renovated.
On Dec. 16, Marrocco received the news he'd been waiting for - he would be scheduled for transplant surgery two days later.
He'll now face extensive rehabilitation. Marrocco says his primary goal post operation is to get back to living completely on his own. He wants to hand cycle a marathon, but the thing he misses most?
"Driving, absolutely. Driving. I used to love to drive and it was a lot of fun for me so I'm really looking forward to getting back to that and just becoming an athlete again," he said.
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