The world’s only recipient of two full arms in a landmark transplant operation said he expected to be able to toast the success of the procedure with a good Bavarian beer soon.
Karl Merk, a dairy farmer from the southern German city of Munich who lost both arms in a work accident, showed off his new-found mobility, waving his arms around and scratching his head for the cameras a year after his operation.
Asked if he was able to drink a glass of beer in typical Bavarian fashion, Merk said: “Well, yeah, at the moment I’m drinking from a straw otherwise it would be a bit dangerous but it should happen soon.”
However, he said his life was “basically back to normal” after the 15-hour surgery carried out by around 40 doctors, surgeons and nurses on July 25 and 26 last year.
“My biggest dream is to be able to move my fingers a bit and basically do everything independently for myself,” Merk added.
Nevertheless, Merk said he was able to enjoy simple pleasures again.
“It’s going really well. I often go with my wife to walk the dog,” he said.
He demonstrated some of the grueling rehabilitation exercises he must perform daily to regain strength, crossing his arms several times for the cameras.
The transplant, carried out at the teaching hospital of the Technical University in Munich, was a pioneering operation and the only one ever performed.
The five teams working in two operating theaters gathered at 10:00pm the night of the operation, one on each side of the patient and the donor, who had died only hours before. A fifth group removed a leg vein from the donor.