By Debbie Gregory.
During his first tour of duty, Retired Marine Sgt. John Peck suffered a traumatic brain injury. But in a subsequent tour in 2010, Peck’s life completely changed.
During that second tour, Peck stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, which triggered a blast that caused him to lose his arms and legs.
After losing his limbs, Peck was equipped with prosthetic arms and a wheelchair. However, in 2014, he was approved to undergo a double arm transplant, in which he would receive real arms from another young man — a man who died.
In August, the 31-year-old veteran underwent a bilateral arm transplant. The 13-hour surgery was performed by a team headed by Simon G. Talbot, Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s director of upper extremity transplantation.
His donor’s arms were surgically connected to Peck’s body near his elbows, which doctors say will allow him to eventually feel, grasp and hold in a way that prosthetics couldn’t.
“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 to do this,” Peck said. “As a result of this surgery, I’ll be able to pursue my dreams.”
Although Peck had significant out-of-pocket expenses, a spokeswoman for Brigham and Women’s said the hospital covered the cost of the surgery, and the physicians volunteered their time.
Of his donor, Peck said, “I will love him every day and will respect his life and this gift until the day I die.” To his donor’s family, Peck said, “Your loved one’s death will not be for nothing. 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.”