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Double Hand Transplant Recipient Plays Piano
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Story By: Larry Stine



  Originally Published on: 8/9/2014

A Massachusetts double hand transplant recipient is making great progress after his history-making surgery in 2011. Emily Reimer spent some time with the man who's rediscovered his love of music. Making beautiful music and feeling the keys of a grand piano, something Richard Mangino had dreams of nearly three years ago. "The new normal is just the way I am," he says. That normal, is getting comfortable with his hands. Mr. Mangino made history as the first successful double hand transplant patient at Brigham and Women's Hospital in October, 2011. A decade earlier, he lost hos lower arms and legs to an infection. "I don't notice what I have or I don't have," Mangino says. "I'm just doing all these things now." Things like swimming, playing ball with his grandkids and simple tasks most of us don't even think about. "I went like this and pulled the blinds down and I said, 'I couldn't do that before,'" he says. "It's like I pull them up and down and up and down. It's like a comedy episode and I want to call my wife and say, 'look at this!' You know?" "Still making progress in terms of gaining sensation and gaining more function out of the hands," says Dr. Simon Talbot of Brigham and Women's Hospital. "We've done a few touch-up operations to give him a little bit more pinch strength on one side and give him a little more grip strength on the other side, but doing great." Besides the physical healing and progress the past couple of years, there is also a focus on Mr. Mangino s psychological health. Having a creative side has kept him strong. "I'm sure that I do a bit more than a lot of people, like I say, because I had music and I have some art and I have some things that I already do that help me through life psychologically," he says. "It's just a huge benefit, you know? Psychologically, I'm as good as everybody else with hands." And having a supportive family has made all the difference. "My wife is awesome," Mangino says. "Because all the things I can do, you need somebody there." Mangino's doctors hope his success can be translated into other transplant advances, saying lower limbs could be the next frontier. The next frontier for Mr. Mangino, gaining more sensation in his fingers, enjoying life and one day, picking up the guitar again. "Maybe I'll try it at some point, but I'm happy with the piano, although you miss those riffs," Mangino says. "It's just a dream when you can play."

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