The retired Marine who successfully underwent a double-arm transplant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital began his Wednesday press conference with a heartfelt message to the family of the man whose arms are now his.
“I’m not even going to try to know what you’re going through at this time, but I will tell you this: Your loved one’s death will not be for nothing,” Sgt. John Peck said. “Every day that I look down at our new arms, I will drive on through the pain, and I will never give up. I will remember his selflessness and his gift until the day I die and will not take it for granted.”
The 31-year-old lost his legs and his left arm in 2010 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan. He later lost his right arm to an infection. Peck said that when he first woke up from that injury, he never thought he’d be where he is today, the recipient of a double-arm transplant.
A hospital spokeswoman said the donor’s family wishes to remain anonymous. CBS reports the limbs came from a young man who was declared brain dead, and the surgery took place 36 hours later.
Now with the results of the surgery, Peck said he’ll be able to pursue his dreams of entering the culinary field.
“My dream job since I was 12 was to be a chef and because of my donor’s gift, I actually have a fighting chance at doing this,” he said. “I plan on going to culinary school and traveling to Paris and Italy to learn about their techniques.”
Then, he said, he plans to come back and compete on reality television show The Next Food Network Star. But what means even more to him, he said, is that one day soon he’ll be able to hold his fiancee’s hand.
Dr. Simon Talbot, the lead surgeon for the Brigham team, said the surgery took nearly 14 hours. Peck has been undergoing outpatient rehabilitation at Spaulding Rehabilitation Network for the past three weeks, and Talbot said that it can take nine to 12 months for sensation to return into the donor limbs.
Peck, who is from Fredericksburg, Virginia, will return to Walter Reed to continue occupational therapy and care once his treatment in Boston is concluded.
While this is the fourth double-arm transplant performed at the Brigham, it is the first one done on an injured member of the military, according to The Boston Globe. Hand and arm transplants have been performed on more than 85 people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.