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Iraq war vet gets rare double arm transplant

  • Brendan Marrocco lost all of his limbs in Iraq in 2009
  • He is the first service member to undergo rare procedure
Brendan Marrocco

Brendan Marrocco, 26, has a pretty good idea of what a big deal he is. He recently posted a picture on his Instagram account with the phrase "They say you are what you eat, but it's funny, because I don't remember eating a f----g legend."

Marrocco lost both of his legs and both of his arms in a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq in 2009. According to officials, he's the first service member to survive the loss of all of his limbs.

Now, he is also the first service member to receive a rare double arm transplant, and is one of only seven in the United States to undergo the procedure. He waited for the chance for years, and in December, he underwent an intense marathon operation at Johns Hopkins to join what was left of his arms to two donor arms. Surgeons peeled back skin, attached metal to bone, bonded together tendons, and, from parts, managed to craft a whole.

On Tuesday, Marrocco and his medical team spoke about his journey.

"I just want to get the most out of these arms," Marrocco said. "And just as goals come up, knock them down and take it absolutely as far as I can." He said, one month after the surgery, he can already make small movements in one of his arms. He said he can't wait to drive again.

Doctors have said a large part of his success is due to his attitude. His presence on Twitter and various online communities reveals a man who is wry and funny, optimistic, yet completely aware of his challenges. This week, he sent the following tweet:


Marrocco's story is one of personal triumph, but it is also one of teamwork and kindness. Friends and family set up the Brendan Marrocco Road to Recovery Trust to help Marrocco for years to come. Homes for Heroes presented him with a brand new high-tech house in his hometown of Staten Island, New York. Marrocco's brother Michael has moved in with himn to be by his side during his long recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Marrocco and his team at Johns Hopkins may have made history, but he still has a long road ahead. Doctors estimate he will remain at Walter Reed for a few more months, which will give him plenty of time to ponder his life's newest chapter.

"It's given me a lot of hope for the future," Marrocco said during Tuesday's conference. "I feel like it's given me a second chance."

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