Valdosta Daily Times

National, International News

January 29, 2013

Soldier who lost 4 limbs has double-arm transplant

-- — The first soldier to survive after losing all four limbs in the Iraq war has received a double-arm transplant.

Brendan Marrocco had the operation on Dec. 18 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, his father said Monday. The 26-year-old Marrocco, who is from New York City, was injured by a roadside bomb in 2009.

He also received bone marrow from the same dead donor who supplied his new arms. That novel approach is aimed at helping his body accept the new limbs with minimal medication to prevent rejection.

The military is sponsoring operations like these to help wounded troops. About 300 have lost arms or hands in the wars.

“He was the first quad amputee to survive” from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there have been four others since then, said Brendan Marrocco’s father, Alex Marrocco. “He was really excited to get new arms.”

The Marroccos want to thank the donor’s family for “making a selfless decision ... making a difference in Brendan’s life,” the father said.

Surgeons plan to discuss the transplant at a news conference with the patient on Tuesday.

The 13-hour operation was led by Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee, plastic surgery chief at Johns Hopkins, and is the seventh double-hand or double-arm transplant done in the United States. Lee led three of those earlier operations when he previously worked at the University of Pittsburgh, including the only above-elbow transplant that had been done at the time, in 2010.

Marrocco’s “was the most complicated one” so far, Lee said in an interview Monday. It will take more than a year to know how fully Marrocco will be able to use the new arms, Lee said.

“The maximum speed is an inch a month for nerve regeneration,” he explained. “We’re easily looking at a couple years” until the full extent of recovery is known.

While at Pittsburgh, Lee pioneered the novel immune suppression approach used for Marrocco. The surgeon led hand transplant operations on five patients, giving them marrow from their donors in addition to the new limbs. All five recipients have done well and four have been able to take just one anti-rejection drug instead of combination treatments most transplant patients receive.

Minimizing anti-rejection drugs is important because they have side effects and raise the risk of cancer over the long term. Those risks have limited the willingness of surgeons and patients to do more hand, arm and even face transplants. Unlike a life-saving heart or liver transplant, limb transplants are aimed at improving quality of life, not extending it.

Quality of life is a key concern for people missing arms and hands — prosthetics for those limbs are not as advanced as those for feet and legs.

Lee has received funding for his work from AFIRM, the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, a cooperative research network of top hospitals and universities around the country that the government formed about five years ago. With government money, he and several other plastic surgeons around the country are preparing to do more face transplants, possibly using the new minimal immune suppression approach.

Marrocco expects to spend three to four months at Hopkins, then return to a military hospital to continue physical therapy, his father said. Before the operation, he had been living with his older brother in a handicapped-accessible home on New York’s Staten Island built with the help of several charities.

The home was heavily damaged by Superstorm Sandy last fall.

Despite being in a lot of pain for some time after the operation, Marrocco showed a sense of humor, his father said. He had a hoarse voice from a tube in his throat during the long surgery, decided that he sounded like Al Pacino, and started doing movie lines.

“He was making the nurses laugh,” Alex Marrocco said.

1
Text Only
National, International News
  • Dollar Tree-Family Do_Rich copy.jpg Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar

    The fight for penny pinchers is intensifying.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Mideast Israe_Rich copy.jpg Gaza war rages despite Hamas, Israel truce pledges

    Israel and Hamas launched new attacks Sunday in the raging Gaza war, despite going back and forth over proposals for a temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday.
    The failure to reach even a brief humanitarian lull in the fighting illustrated the difficulties in securing a more permanent truce as the sides remain far apart on their terms.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP81072904918 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP4507280123 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, July 28, 2014
    Today is Monday, July 28, the 209th day of 2014. There are 156 days left in the year. 
     

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tentative deal reached on VA reform

    The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

    July 27, 2014

  • United States-Libya_Rich.jpg US evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes

    The United States shuttered its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort as fighting intensified between rival militias. Secretary of State John Kerry said “free-wheeling militia violence” prompted the move.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP9607270692 copy.jpg Today in History for Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Today is Sunday, July 27, the 208th day of 2014. There are 157 days left in the year.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • No ticket for Shrek over loud musical, chief says

    A musical being performed in a New Hampshire park has drawn some noise complaints, but the deputy police chief says he’s “not giving Shrek a ticket.”

    July 26, 2014

  • Arizona Execution Dru_Rich copy.jpg Arizona’s McCain: Execution was torture

    U.S. Sen. John McCain says the execution of an Arizona inmate that lasted two hours was torture.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ukraine Plane_Rich copy.jpg US: Russia firing into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results