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ONLY ON ABC-7: Elbow-to-elbow transplant recipient slowly regaining independence

Reggie Cook Update

EL PASO, Texas - The first ever elbow-to-elbow transplant recipient is achieving his primary goal in life: regaining independence.

"I was in a half-body cast for three months and it was really hard, but my life has changed dramatically," Reggie Cook said.

ABC-7 first introduced you to Cook in 2016 when he was getting ready to undergo the first ever elbow-to-elbow transplant.

In January 2009, Cook's life changed in an instant when he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed. He was on his way home after a long night at work.

Cook was in a coma for months, suffered brain trauma and was nearly left a quadriplegic. In the wake of the crash, his left arm was useless and his right arm was "frozen at a 90 degree angle," Cook's doctor told ABC-7.

Cook was the one who came up with the idea for the life-changing procedure. "You know, (my left arm) is paralyzed, so I asked the doctor if we could possibly use the elbow from (my left arm) and use it to regain use of my right arm and a light went on in the doctor's head," Cook said.

Surgeons successfully performed the groundbreaking 16-hour surgery at the University of California San Francisco. They transplanted the elbow, tissue and muscles from his left elbow to his right arm.

These days, visits to the clinic are more routine. Reggie is monitored regularly to see if his bones are healing properly.

"I'm ready for the next surgery. I'm ready to stand and walk, and hopefully, this arm is strong enough," Cook said.

"Everything went well with the surgery, as far as the elbow from the left side moving it to the right, the arteries, the vains, they are all working," orthopedic surgeon Eric Sides said. "The graft is alive. We have a couple of minor problems, however. The bone connecting the ulna healed, no problem. The humerus hasn't healed yet."

Cook and Sides will be in San Francisco this month as the same team that performed the 16-hour surgery scrubs in again. They will be doing some bone grafts to help the humerus heal.

Dr. Sides is hopeful this will be the last operation before Cook is fitted for a prosthetic arm and hand.

Although still not quite finished, Cook is happy with the results. "It all worked out. I don't miss this arm at all. I live independently now," he said.
    
Cook wants to share his journey with others whose lives have been changed by tragedy. He wants to become a motivational speaker.

"Life will only get better," Cook said.


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