War hero becomes first US Veteran to receive double arm transplant (11 Photos)

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Iraq war hero and Chiver Brendan Marrocco is now the successful recipient of a rare double arm transplant.

In a surgery described as "The most extensive and complicated limb transplant procedure to be performed in the US," a team of elite surgeons at Johns Hopkins Hospital connected Brendan's bones, blood vessels, muscles, tendons, and skin.

The 26 year-old veteran received the arms and bone marrow from a deceased donor - a method shown to prevent rejection and reduce the need for anti-rejection drugs that can lead to organ damage and infection.

On Easter Sunday of 2009, Brendan's vehicle was on patrol in Iraq when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb. The explosion immediately blew Brendan's arms and left leg completely off. "My right leg was attached a little bit…and (the blast) killed my gunner. He was my best friend."

In a twist of cruel irony, the heat from the blast cauterized the same wounds it had caused - Brendan was barely bleeding. To compound matters, his carotid artery had been severed. Brendan was fading. He flatlined in transit to the hospital, "I died three times. No pulse. Flat-out dead. And I came back."

At the time, in 2009, nobody in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars had ever survived a quadruple amputation. Brendan would be the very first. Four others would follow, including Navy EOD Taylor Morris.

Despite Brendan's extensive injuries, he felt lucky to be alive. He knew it could have been worse; Brendan always reminded himself that his best friend Michael Anaya had given much more. "I was lucky to survive. I will not sit down and let my injuries take over my life."

As Brendan began the intense rehabilitation process, he found himself missing his arms much more than his legs. "Without legs you can still be independent. You know, without arms there's so much more you can't do."

As Brendan's condition improved, major advancements were also being made in anti-rejection drug technology. Still, the idea that somebody could receive two human limbs without rejecting them was a huge risk, both for the doctor and the patient. But if a doctor like Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee at Johns Hopkins was willing to perform the operation, and Brendan was all-in for the risk, it might just be possible.

On December 18th, after a 13-hour operation, Brendan became only the seventh double-hand or double-arm transplant completed in the United States. In the tense days following his surgery, Brendan maintained a sense of humor to break the tension. Brendan's father said: "He had a hoarse voice from a tube in his throat during the long surgery. It made him sound like Al Pacino, so Brendan started doing movie lines. He was making all the nurses laugh."

Because the risk of rejection is so high, the national media is just getting wind of Brendan's success story today. And you can't help but notice that in every interview, Brendan is wearing a different KCCO.

I spoke with Brendan about an hour ago via Twitter Direct Message. I asked Brendan how he was holding up. Could we do anything for him?

"Yes, I have one favor if you don't mind? My friend Gina is suffering from CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome). She’s such an incredible person and could use some prayers and needs to know she has people here who truly love her. And not to give up."

With the focus of a nation solidly on Brendan today, his thoughts are with the well being of others, not himself.

Brendan, we want you to know that it's a small world…really small. I don't know what the odds of this are but we actually know your friend Gina. We've been talking to her about her rare and painful condition for two months. You'll be glad to know that Chive Charities is about to take a very active interest in her life.

Say hello to Brendan on his Twitter Machine.

Brendan’s condition continues to improve. When I asked him about his health he said: “I’m doing great man. My fingers already move a little. I want to thank all the Chivers and beautiful Chivettes for the extraordinary support y’all have showed. It’s truly humbling to see. I’d also like to thank theCHIVE for bringing more awareness to situations like mine so we can get more help for our brothers and sisters wounded in combat.”

We’re the ones humbled, Brendan. As theCHIVE surges into 2013, we’re being led forward by the example of extraordinary Chivers who inspire all of us to be better people. Soldiers and sailors like yourself and Taylor Morris have raised the bar for all of us.

If you get a chance today, Chivers, drop Brendan a message on his Twitter Machine.

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  • SAF

    Unbelievable man. Tears in my eyes.

  • SSG Sean M.

    chive on brother, from one veteran to another thank you for serving

  • amber

    Just saw this story on CBS news and freaked out when i saw he was a chiver <3 Makes me smile knowing that he has this whole community behind him =)

  • Joshua

    Hooah! Fuck yeah! That's what the army creates, real soldiers. I salute you man from one soldier to another keep going strong!

  • ten80

    This is just outstanding! Chive on Brendan! You are as tough as they get! I expect nothing less from a fellow ARMY Soldier! KCCO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Becki

    I just saw this story on the news… Brendan and his spirit is REMARKABLE… and it made me smile to see him Chiving On.

  • Laura Guthrie

    Truly incredible story. Thoughts and prayers go out to Brendan, Gina, and all other wounded veterans. KCCO.

  • Jonathan

    Just saw you on NBC 4 news here in Maryland. Thank you and KCCO!!

  • Kayci J

    I don't have a twitter account but Brendan, you are truly a hero! Best of wishes in your recovery! God speed and THANK YOU for serving this country!

  • Matt

    If I had boobs I'd show 'em to you.

  • cablelayer

    Good Luck Brendan……


    The Chive Community is so great.
    My buddy's 22 year old son and his friends were partying when I stopped by their shed last week.
    There were on their Phones logged on The Chive….
    I asked what are you guys looking at…they said the Chive….
    I said KCCO…
    They looked at this 47 year old like WTF do you know about The Chive……..
    I told them I have been on the site for a few years and they needed to go to the Charities part of the site and read the stories…..
    I explained we are a community of people of all walks of life that come together at a site to laugh,cry,fume,post comments and do some good when needed…… ……….

    Thank to all of you Chivers and Chivettes that continue to bring a smile to my face every day……………..

  • Devoc

    You're a fuckin' champ dude. Utmost respect to you. KCCO!

  • Dennis P.

    I thought I knew what badass was until I saw this. You sir, are a BADASS. To be thinking of others while you go through this is just classy. You truly deserve to have you arms back. I will pray for you and Gina my friend. Feel better man!

  • Alyn

    Brendan, you are a true hero! Although what has happend to you is very tragic, I would like to thank you for all that you have done, and the sacrafice's you have made! hang in there! I sincerely hope everything works out for you!

  • Fun_ghoul

    This man is a total dude. KCCO from Canada !! God bless and i hope you have a speedy recovery !!

  • Ryan

    Awesome! Thanks for your sacrifice for our Country…an amazing gift for an amazing hero.

  • Stlcards

    Hey thank you for your service and glad to see you up and movin!! Oh and that chive shirt looked great on you on NBC news cast!!

  • Bart

    I am simply amazed by your courage and humbled by your example

  • May

    God Bless you brother!

  • Seouldout

    I know this dude is a hero… but damn.. the doctor is a freakin genius.. amazing how far medicine has come…

  • MontanaGirl76

    Fight on brother! KCCO

  • DeWolf

    I just want to say that you are a great inspiration and a truly amazing person. As for the douche bags that don't think this young man is a hero, you are obviously uneducated or just plain ignorant. The definition of a hero is someone who is admired for courage or noble qualities, which he absolutely qualifies. So keep being yourself and chive on good sir, you have the entire chive nation behind you.

  • Blahkatablah!!

    Brother, you are a fucking stud. We are all proud to call you a fellow American. Keep on keepin' on!

  • hurr durr

    He wouldn't be on this website if he didn't wear KCCO shirts

  • tdub

    I heard this story on the radio, and the gal doing the story said he was wearing a shirt that said "Keep Calm" and I knew to check this site. Nice work, I hope this works!!

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