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Double hand transplant completed on quadruple amputee

October 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A team of Boston doctors announced it has completed a rare double hand transplant. And a quadruple amputee talked about what it's like to have two new hands.

The marathon surgery involved re-attaching bones, skin, tendons, muscles, ligaments, and blood vessels. The doctors and their team operated last week, but they introduced their patient Friday morning.

"First I must express my deep gratitude to the donor family," said 65-year-old Richard Mangino.

Mangino lost both his hands and feet to a severe blood infection in 2002, so the Boston resident hardly knew how to describe what it felt like to have new ones.

"And you haven't had it for nine years or 10 years," said Mangino. "You're used to seeing your prosthetic and, you know, it's an adjustment stage. And one day I woke up and I was like, 'yes.'"

Mangino's operation was the second double hand transplant attempted by the plastic surgery team at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"The operation lasted 12 hours and involved more than 40 people," said Dr. Elof Eriksson.

Doctors say he will soon regain his sense of touch and he's already been able to move his fingers.

Mangino says he would love to get back into swimming and guitar playing, but it's the daily things that are going to give him the most joy.

"You know, just getting dressed," said Mangino. "It's a mountain, taking a shower, shaving, getting coffee ready."

The donor's family preferred to remain anonymous. But Mangino wanted them to know he will be forever grateful.

"I am humbled and overwhelmed with emotion," said Mangino. "Thank you for this incredible gift."

The first double hand transplant the Boston team worked on was on Charla Nash, the Connecticut lady who was mauled by a chimpanzee. The transplant failed after she contracted a blood infection.

Worldwide more than 50 hands have been transplanted on about 30 patients, and some of those were double hand transplants.

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