“When it happened, I didn’t remember too much,” he said. “I woke up a couple days later. I was still alive. That was really what mattered to me at the time.”
He recovered as much as he could at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center before moving back home with his family in Staten Island, N.Y.
The young man was joined by his parents, Alex and Michelle, and by his 29-year-old brother, Michael, who raised his hand during the question-and-answer session to ask his younger sibling about his favorite character in the Harry Potter novels. Blushing, Mr. Marrocco named the title character — who survives a “killing curse” and is known in the popular series as “the boy who lived.” He then declared that his elder brother now owed him $10.
Mrs. Marrocco said the surgery meant “moving forward” for her family.
“Our lives have been on hold the last four years,” she said.
The elder Mr. Marrocco said the operation means his son is another step closer to independence.
“I think that’s what we’ve all worked for from the very beginning, getting him to the point where he can live on his own,” he said.
Mr. Marrocco agreed that surgery means more than just a milestone in medical books, it would give him back his freedom.
“I hated having no arms. It takes so much away from you,” he said. “You talk with your hands, you do everything with your hands. When I didn’t have them, I was kind of lost.” He said he could now focus on what’s ahead. That includes working to get behind the wheel of his black Dodge Charger, which has been sitting in his driveway waiting his return, completing a marathon using a hand cycle, and perhaps overseeing a movie about his life.
Asked who would play him, Mr. Marrocco chose Chris Hemsworth, the Australian actor known for playing the role of Thor.
“He’s got great hair, just like me,” he said with a laugh, as he gingerly used his left hand to sweep a lock of hair behind his ear.
Doctors would not comment on the donor, nor the donor’s family, but Mr. Marrocco was solemn as he expressed his thanks.
“I’m humbled by their gift. It certainly changed my life,” he said. “I just want to get the most out of these arms. As goals come up, I’ll knock them down.”
Mr. Marrocco added that he is confident he will achieve whatever he sets his mind to.
“If I truly care about something, it really means something to me, I’d go through hell to get it,” he said. “That’s what I’m doing now.”