Former Hawaii-based soldier finally able to use his hands again

By Paul Drewes
Published On: Jan 29 2013 10:53:00 PM HST

Fellow soldiers consider amputee Brendan Marrocco a hero.

HONOLULU -

A Schofield Barracks soldier, who lost all four limbs while fighting in Iraq four years ago, now has arms and hands again.

Improvised explosive devices or IEDs were a deadly hazard for U.S. soldiers in Iraq. In 2009 on Easter Sunday, one of those IEDs forever changed Brendan Marrocco's life, as he and his fellow soldiers drove back to base.

"Brendan was hit with the IED and lost all four limbs immediately. It was a traumatic amputation," said Lt. Col. Barrett Bernard.

Ironically, the intense explosion may have helped Marrocco live. "The high heat and pressure they cauterize the wounds as they occur, which prevented him from losing all of his blood," said Bernard.

Marrocco became the first soldier in Iraq to survive losing all of his limbs. "I was still alive so that's really all that mattered to me," said Marrocco.

After recovering from the traumatic injuries, Marrocco slowly learned how to use his prosthetic limbs.

"You would expect someone who lost all his limbs to be upset, bitter. That was not the case with Brendan. He is so inspirational and truly amazing. I went to visit him in rehab and they would take him to other soldiers who had lost limbs, to have him cheer them up," said Bernard.

After years of rehab, the 26-year-old went through one of the most complicated and extensive surgeries performed in the United States.  Doctors connected bones, muscles, nerves and skin in a double arm transplant.

After the successful surgery, Marrocco doesn't yet have full range of motion in his arms, but he was able to scratch his face and touch his hair with real hands.  "It's like I went back four years and I'm me again," said Marrocco.

Bernard said doctors were even talking about a possible leg transplant in the future.

He also added in the attack that severely wounded Marrocco, another soldier from their platoon was also wounded but he died from his injuries -- the only soldier lost during their deployment.

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