Healing Hands: Revere Man is Recipient of World’s First Double Hand Transplant

Mangino arrives at Brigham & women's hospital for a revolutionary double hand transplant. Above, the Revere resident is shown with his wife, Carole, after the successful procedure.

One Newman Street grandfather became international news this past week after he was the recipient of the first-ever, successful double hand transplant at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston.

And you’ve got to hand it to him, Richard Mangino certainly handled the situation with a lot of grace and gratitude.

“When I survived the devastating infection that took my limbs, people said it was a miracle,” said Mangino, 65, at a press conference in Boston last Friday. “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.  And today, my miracle has come true. And I am eternally grateful. Thank you.”

Mangino has become well known on Newman Street with his neighbors and friends for having overcome a devastating amputation of both his feet and both his hands in 2002 – having developed a septic infection that took his hands from the elbow down and his legs from the knee down. Most who live nearby and know him marveled at the fact that the amputations didn’t really slow him down. In fact, some said that he actually became more active, being known to paint artwork and take care of his lawn while using his prostheses.

At Friday’s press conference, he also thanked his wife, Carole, and his three sons, Ricky, Rob and David – as well as his grandchildren Trevor and Nick.

He said they were the inspiration for him to continue fighting over the last nine years.

“My family has been the inspiration to fight when things were hard and to never look back – always look forward. I love you all very much,” he said.

The groundbreaking procedure is being hailed worldwide as a major medical breakthrough.

More than 40 doctors and support staff performed the double transplant in a procedure that lasted more than 12 hours. It included painstakingly attaching skin, tendons, muscles, ligaments, bones and blood vessels in the left and right forearms.

The procedure actually took place some two weeks ago.

Doctors were ecstatic at the press conference, noting that when the procedure was finished and the blood began to flow seamlessly into the hands, they knew it was a success.

Doctors commented that is was a tremendous rush and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment to see the hands actually start working.

Brigham & Women’s – which actually performed the first ever organ transplant in 1954, a kidney – announced in the summer of 2010 that they were developing a hand transplant program for amputees. They performed their first single hand transplant last May.

However, two weeks ago, Mangino became the first double hand transplant ever performed in the world.

The donor hands used were approved by the New England Organ Bank, but the family of the donor was also required to give their consent.

Mangino said he is forever grateful to the family for approving of the double hand donation.

“I must express my deep gratitude to the donor family,” said Mangino. “They are, and always will be, in my prayers. My family and I grieve for the loss of your loved one. I am humbled and overwhelmed with emotion. Thank you for this incredible gift. Your selflessness and the expertise of this amazing care team have given me a new life. I am extremely grateful to Brigham and Women’s Hospital and to all of my care providers here.”

The lead doctors involved in Mangino’s transplant were Elof Eriksson, Bohdan Pomahac, and Simon Talbot.

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