Thanks to a double arm transplant surgery, a former Marine sergeant who lost both arms while serving in Afghanistan in 2010 can hold hands with his fiancée once again. (Photo: Getty Images)
A former Marine sergeant who had a double arm transplant is happy that he can now hold his fiancee’s hand. John Peck, 31, received his new arms from a deceased organ donor during a 13-hour surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Peck said in a press conference Wednesday that he’s grateful to the family of the deceased man who donated his arms. “Your loved one’s death will not be for nothing,” he said. “Every day that I look down at our new arms, I will drive on…and I will never give up. I will remember his selflessness and his gift until the day I die.”
Peck became a triple amputee after he stepped on a homemade bomb in Afghanistan in 2010. He later lost his other arm due an infection.
During the surgery, the right donor arm was attached to Peck’s right arm just above the elbow, and the left arm was attached below Peck’s left elbow. Peck says his new arms feel good, but they don’t feel like his yet. “They will,” he added, noting that he has a slight sensation in them, which doctors say should improve over time.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital released an animated video explaining how the complicated transplant was completed, which involved connecting veins, nerves, muscles, and bones with precision instruments.
More surgeries like Peck’s may be on the horizon. “There have been 28 known bilateral arm transplants worldwide, and we do anticipate that number will grow as awareness about the effectiveness of the procedure is proven and the science behind immune suppression (anti-rejection) medication continues to evolve,” Erin McDonough, chief communication officer for Brigham and Women’s Hospital, tells Yahoo Beauty.
Peck says the first time he held his fiancée Jessica Paker’s hand after the surgery, he couldn’t feel it, but it meant so much to him. “That truly is a special gift,” he said.
Double arm transplant recipient John Peck with his fiancée Jessica Paker. (Photo: Getty Images)
Simon Rego, chief psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, tells Yahoo Beauty that the benefit of human touch is invaluable. “The data that we have at this time suggest that touch can play an important role in our early development and communication, and that therapeutic touch can have a positive impact on various conditions including pain, depression, and immune function,” he says.
Clinical psychologist John Mayer, Ph.D., author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, agrees, calling touch “the neglected stepchild” of the senses. “We often take for granted the role it plays in love and affection as it is overpowered by sight and smell, but touch is vitally important to human relationships,” he tells Yahoo Beauty.
Touch causes the release of a bevy of chemicals in the brain and body including dopamine, testosterone (which increases arousal), adrenalin (which increases heart rate and excitement), pain-blocking and pleasure-increasing phenethylamine, endorphins, and the love hormone oxytocin, Mayer explains.
Peck says he plans to use his new arms to live out his dream of becoming a chef.