Nightly News   |  January 29, 2013

Iraq vet with double arm transplant looks to the future

A former Army private in Iraq, Brendon Marrocco lost both his legs and arms to a roadside bomb, and became the military’s first quadruple amputee to survive. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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>>> an inspiring miles stone to report tonight from johns hopkins hospital in baltimore where last month a u.s. army veteran who lost all four of his limbs underwent a remarkable transplant. today, the 26-year-old new yorker talked to reporters and said quite simply, "i feel like i'm getting a second chance." you will agree with that assessment when you see his story tonight from nbc's jim miklaszewski .

>> reporter: brandon morocco wheeled himself into a backed news conference in baltimore today. what's remarkable, he did it with a pair of arms he received just six weeks ago, in a double-transplant operation.

>> you know, i never really accepted the fact that i didn't have arms, so now that i have them again, it's -- it's almost like it never happened.

>> reporter: as an army private in iraq, morocco lost both his legs and arms to a roadside bomb. the military's first quadruple amputee to survive. but he never gave up hope. and amazingly, considered himself lucky.

>> i was still alive. so, that's really all that mattered to me at the time.

>> reporter: for nearly four years, morocco suffered through the excruciating pain of therapy at walter reed hospital .

>> pretty much anything that touches them, pushes on them, hurts real bad.

>> reporter: griffin, he mastered his artificial limbs , all four of them. but that would never be good enough.

>> i hated not having arms. i was all right with not having legs. not having arms takes so much away from you out of -- even your personality.

>> reporter: so last december, a team of doctors at johns hopkins hospital , working 13 hours straight, connected miles of nerves, vessels and blood tendons to transplant two arms from a deceased anonymous donor. they also traps planted the donor's bone marrow to reduce the threat of rejection. with an unbridled spirit, morocco's progress is nothing short of miraculous and the first time he moved his arms was a bit of a shock.

>> one of my friends was just, like, freaking out. like, did you do that on purpose?

>> reporter: now you scratching his nose is second nature. morocco's goal is to someday compete again in sports but most of all drive his car.

>> he is stubborn but in a good way, not going to let anybody tell him he can't do something.

>> reporter: morocco need clear, nothing going to stop him and so far, nothing has.

>> life always gets better and