PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Monday, January 5, 2015

Man Who Lost All Four Limbs Receives Double Arm Transplant

photo
From left, Angel Gonzalez, Will Lautzenheiser and Tom Lautzenheiser pose for a photo. (Robin Young/Here & Now)Will Lautzenheiser received a double arm transplant after losing all four limbs to a group A streptococcal infection. (Robin Young/Here & Now)Twins Will Lautzenheiser and Tom Lautzenheiser show their hands side-by-side after Will's double arm transplant. (Robin Young/Here & Now)Will Lautzenheiser received a double arm transplant after losing all four limbs to a group A streptococcal infection. (Robin Young/Here & Now)

Will Lautzenheiser lost his arms and legs after a near-fatal infection in Montana.

When Here & Now’s Robin Young spoke to Will and his identical twin Tom Lautzenheiser  this summer, Will had found out he was a candidate for a double arm transplant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Will Lautzenheiser and his identical twin Tom are pictured at Will's home in Brookline, Mass. on July 3, 2014. (Samantha Fields/Here & Now)

Will and Tom Lautzenheiser are pictured at Will’s home in Brookline, Mass. on July 3, 2014, before Will received a double arm transplant. (Samantha Fields/Here & Now)

Now that Will has received the double arm transplant, Robin paid another visit to Will and Tom to find out how they’re doing.

“I feel such happiness. Every time I look and see my arms, I get giddy almost,” Will said. “I wonder whether this man was aware of how beautiful his arms were, or are, because I look at them every day as a complete gift.”

Robin also asked how Tom feels about the arms of a donor being attached to his identical twin.

“The arms that Will got are perfect for him,” Tom said. “They’re strong hands, they’re healthy — they’re a match. They may not be exactly as Will’s hands were or my hands are, but they are close enough.”

Interview Highlights: Will Lautzenheiser

On life after the transplant

“I feel like a newborn, haplessly moving around through space and trying to reintegrate, but doing it rather fumblingly. For example, I seem to have developed a habit of unintentionally groping people. If I knock into someone I don’t notice it so much. A little awkward, peculiar.  I’ve become a serial groper, an unwitting serial groper.”

On what has surprised him the most

“The [donor’s family] said, ‘Our son gave the best hugs. We pray that you make a wonderful recovery and that your loved ones will be able to enjoy your warm embrace’… I had thought I had missed being able to give hugs and to embrace, but what I hadn’t realized was how much that actually meant. You have a memory of it, but then when you can do it — I can’t give enough hugs now!”

On public reaction to his transplant

“People have been asking how I feel about organ donation; gee, I don’t want to put it so coarsely but essentially the thought is, you know, ‘what do you feel like having a dead person’s arms on your arms?’ And that’s not how I look at it at all. These arms are completely alive and are my own.”

Watch a 2013 video about Will Lautzenheiser:

Guests

  • Will Lautzenheiser, filmmaker, teacher of screenwriting and film production, and quadruple amputee.
  • Tom Lautzenheiser, regional scientist for the Massachusetts Audubon Society and Will’s twin brother.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

May 26 5 Comments

As Lethal Heroin Overdose Numbers Rise, Families Find Solace In Organ Donation

Organ banks around the country have noted an increasing number of organs from donors who have died of overdoses.

May 26 3 Comments

NEADS Assistance Dog Bailey Graduates From Service Dog Training

NEADS provides dogs like Bailey, a yellow Labrador, for deaf and disabled Americans.

May 25 Comment

Celebrating The Class Of 2016: Peace Odiase

Odiase is one of two valedictorians at Fisk University, a historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee.

May 25 8 Comments

NEADS Service Dog Meets His Match

Here & Now has been tracking service dog Bailey, who recently met his new owner, since last year.