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Taiwan-American doctor performs double-arm transplant on US vet

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The first U.S. soldier to survive after losing all four limbs in the Iraq war has received a double-arm transplant by a Taiwanese-American doctor.

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

Those new arms “already move a little,” Marrocco tweeted a month after the operation.

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.

Alex Marrocco said his son does not want to talk with reporters until the news conference, but the younger Marrocco has repeatedly mentioned the transplant on Twitter and posted photos. On Facebook, he describes himself as a “wounded warrior...very wounded.”

“Ohh yeah today has been one month since my surgery and they already move a little,” Brendan Marrocco tweeted Jan. 18.

Responding to a tweet from NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski, he wrote: “dude I can't tell you how exciting this is for me. I feel like I finally get to start over.”

Brendan Marrocco has been in public many times. During a July 4 visit last year to the Sept. 11 Memorial with other disabled soldiers, he said he had no regrets about his military service.

“I wouldn't change it in any way ... I feel great. I'm still the same person,” he said.

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.

Lee was born in Taiwan and left for U.S. when he was 15, according to the United Evening News.

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine website introduces Lee as “heralded for his successful hand transplants and breakthrough research on overcoming rejection in composite tissue grafting.

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This photo taken from U.S. veteran Brendan Marrocco's Twitter account shows him recovering after a double above-elbow arm transplants. (Captured from the Internet)



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