Man who lost both hands, then received transplants, is playing piano again

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News

A Massachusetts man who was the recipient of a double hand transplant is making incredible progress in his recovery from surgery in 2011.

How incredible? He's playing grand piano again.

Richard Mangino, a quadruple amputee, became the world's first successful double hand transplant case at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. No less than a team of 40 surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, residents, radiologists and assistants performed the history-making 12-hour procedure less than three years ago. Now Mangino, a musician and painter who lost his lower arms and legs to an infection in 2002, has gained enough sensation in his fingers to draw as well as play music.

"The new normal is just the way that I am," Mangino, from Revere, Ma., told WCVB-TV. "I don't notice what I have or what I don't have. I'm just doing all these things now."

Doctors are hopeful he'll continue to do even more things.

"He's still making progress in terms of gaining sensation and gaining more function out of the hands," Simon Talbot, a doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told WCVB. "We've done a few touch-up operations to give him a little more pinch strength on one side and give him a little more grip strength on the other side."

Less than a year after his surgery, Mangino was driving and playing Wiffle ball with two limbs donated from a New Hampshire man who had a fatal brain hemorrhage.

He says regaining the ability to paint and play music has helped the psychological part of his recovery.

"I'm sure that I do a lot more than a lot of people," Mangino said, "because I had music and I have some art and I have some things that I already do that help me through life psychologically. It's just a huge benefit, you know? Psychologically, I'm as good as everybody else with hands."

Next up: guitar.

"I'm happy with the piano, although you miss those riffs," Mangino said. "It's just a dream when you can play."