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War Veteran Brendan Marrocco Gets Double Arm Transplant

A veteran who lost his legs and arms in a bombing in Iraq four years ago just received a rare double-arm transplant, and says he looks forward to driving and swimming. 

"I just want to get the most out of these arms, and just as goals come up, knock them down and take it absolutely as far as I can," Brendan Marracco said at a news conference at Johns Hopkins Hospital where his 13-hour surgery was performed. 

When he lost his arms and legs, he said he could get by using prosthetic legs, but having no arms really bothered him.

"You talk with your hands, you do everything with your hands, basically, and when you don't have that, you're kind of lost for a while," he said. 

He can't wait to drive his Dodge Charger that has been sitting in a garage for three years. 

"I used to love to drive," he said. "I'm really looking forward to just getting back to that, and just becoming an athlete again."

Marracco said, when his arms are fully functioning, he'd like to swim and compete in a marathon with a hand-cycle. 

Doctors think his good humor and ambition will help him recover quicker. 

"He's a young man with a tremendous amount of hope, and he's stubborn - stubborn in a good way," Dr. Jaimie Shores said. "I think the sky's the limit."

Shores said he had been trying to use his hands already, but he does not have feeling in them, as the nerves and muscles are mending slowly.

"I suspect that he will be using his hands for just about everything as we let him start trying to do more and more. Right now, we're the ones really kind of holding him back at this point," he said. 

Marracco's double arm transplant is only the seventh ever done in the United States. He was also the first soldier in Iraq to lose all four limbs. 

Doctors say the recovery will be slow, as nerves regenerate at a rate of an inch per month. 

"The progress will be slow, but the outcome will be rewarding," Shores said. "We're easily looking at a couple years' until the full extent of recovery is known."

Marracco also received a bone marrow transplant from the same donor so that they could reduce the chance of rejection. 

Though Marracco is in pain, he has been showing a sense of humor, joking about his raspy voice after having a tube in his throat for so long during surgery. 

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