A U.S. Army infantryman who lost all four limbs in a 2009 roadside explosion in Iraq has undergone radical transplant surgery that may help him regain use of his arms. Last month, the 26-year-old infantryman had successful surgery -- a rare double arm transplant -- at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
"It feels amazing," Marrocco told reporters Wednesday. "It is something that I was waiting for for a long time, and now that it happened, I don't know what to say, because it is such a big thing for my life." The last thing Marrocco remembers before being hit by an explosion in 2009 was that he was driving an armored vehicle.
When he woke up at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, Marrocco was alive, but missing all four of his limbs. "When it happened, I didn't remember too much," Marrocco said. "I was still alive, so that's really all that mattered to me at the time." Marrocco is one of only seven people in the country to successfully undergo the surgery, and the first quadruple-amputee soldier, according to Johns Hopkins.
The surgery, which took 13 hours and 16 orthopaedic and microvascular surgeons from five hospitals -- was also the first bilateral arm transplant performed at Johns Hopkins. All of the surgeons volunteered their services; the surgery and rehabilitation costs were paid by the Department of Defense's Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine and Hopkins.
While Marrocco is doing well, his recovery will be long and risky, the doctor said. "The nerves regenerate at the maximum speed of 1 inch per month. The therapy will continue for a few years, first at Johns Hopkins, then at Walter Reed. The progress will be slow, but the outcome rewarding." Marrocco is taking anti-rejection medication, which can lead to side effects like infection and organ damage.