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In This Issue:
Left, Richard Mangino speaks to the audience during an Oct. 14 press conference; Right, a portion of the team of more than 40 BWHers who performed the bilateral transplant.
"It’s just like you can fly–it’s like having wings.”
That’s how 65-year-old Richard Mangino described his bilateral hand transplant during a press conference at BWH Oct. 14.
Mangino’s legs below the knees and arms below the elbows were amputated due to a bloodstream infection in 2002. For the past 10 years, he has gone about his daily routine aided by prostheses.
“It was a mountain every day,” he said, noting that it required nearly all of his energy to do things as basic as getting dressed in the morning. “Every day, I could do things that everybody else did. But they didn’t know that I did several miracles everyday just to be the person that I was.”
Despite the daily challenges of living as a quadruple amputee, Mangino taught himself to do many of the things others take for granted. An avid guitar player, he continued to write music, and also devoted himself to art and teaching.
Earlier this month, Mangino took on one of his greatest challenges yet when he received the hand transplant he had been waiting a decade for.
A team of more than 40 surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, residents, radiologists and physician assistants worked for more than 12 hours to perform the procedure, which involved multiple tissues including skin, tendons, muscles, ligaments, bones and blood vessels on both the left and right forearms and hands.
“Mr. Mangino came to us with a dream—to once again have arms, to have hands, and to sense touch. This team of pioneers endeavored to do everything possible to help him achieve his dream,” said Simon Talbot, MD, of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, leader of the hand transplant team, during the press conference.
“This latest milestone reflects the commitment and dedication of Brigham and Women’s Hospital to continue to expand the boundaries of what is possible in transplantation,” said Chief of Plastic Surgery Elof Eriksson, MD. “This is the legacy of Dr. Joseph Murray, who performed the first successful transplant of an internal organ from one living person to another, in this very building, on Dec. 23, 1954. We are grateful to Dr. Murray for his vision, and to this talented team for having the courage to consider everything possible in giving our patients an improved life.”
Eriksson also expressed gratitude to others who played a role in making Mangino’s transplant become a reality. He recognized BWH leadership for their commitment to funding discovery and innovation—one facet that the mission of the Plastic Surgery Division shares with the mission of BWH.
“With each case, we learn more and we expand the boundaries of what is possible for our patients by providing them with new reconstructive options,” said Bo Pomahac, MD, director of the Plastic Surgery Transplantation Program and BWH’s Burn Center, who initiated, planned and led BWH’s four successful face transplantations and the hand transplant.
The next part of Mangino’s journey is just beginning, and his healing and recovery are off to a strong start.
“The results so far have been a resounding success,” Talbot said. “Just days post surgery, Mr. Mangino began independently moving his fingers. He is now facing a long period of hard work to regain function, but we are certain that with the help of our hand therapists, he will take on this challenge just as he has faced others—with tremendous energy and infectious optimism.”
Mangino expressed deep gratitude to the donor family.
“My family and I grieve for the loss of your loved one,” he said. “I am humbled and overwhelmed with emotion. Thank you for this incredible gift.”
Mangino also spoke of the future, particularly of his plans to spend time with his family, including grandsons Trevor and Nicholas.
“When I survived the devastating infection that took my limbs, people said it was a miracle,” he said. “When I taught myself how to put on my prostheses and continued to do things like paint and mow the lawn, people said I was a miracle. When I began providing instruction to others who had lost limbs, to teach them what I had learned and how I did things…that felt miraculous. But the one miracle I have prayed for, since my oldest grandson Trevor was born, was to be able to feel the sense of touch again—to touch his and Nicky’s little faces, and stroke their hair, and to teach them to throw a ball. To me, that would be a miracle. Today, my miracle has come true, and I am eternally grateful.”
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