Page last updated at 15:08 GMT, Wednesday, 22 July 2009 16:08 UK

German arms op man enjoys scratch


Karl Merk: "I can do more than I expected"

A German dairy farmer who received the world's first transplant of two complete arms has spoken about his new limbs - and the joy of scratching.

Karl Merk had the 15-hour operation a year ago in Munich after losing his arms just below the shoulder in a 2002 combine harvester accident.

The 55-year-old's new limbs came from an anonymous donor who had died.

Mr Merk told a news conference he can now open doors easily, eat without help, ride a bike and wash himself.

Doctors decided he should undergo surgery after his body refused to accept artificial limbs.

It is impossible to describe this to someone who has never experienced living without arms for six years
Karl Merk

"I can scratch myself if it itches somewhere. It feels pretty good, almost like a new person," Mr Merk, who had spent six years without arms, said on Wednesday.

He crossed his arms several times, raised the new limbs above his head and leaned forward on his forearms for the cameras.

"It's getting a little better every day. It is impossible to describe this to someone who has never experienced having to live without arms for six years without being able to do anything. And now all of a sudden it works again - indescribable."

Mr Merk said he hoped soon to toast the pioneering surgeons by being able to raise a glass of Bavarian beer to his lips.

One of the medical team, Christoph Hoehnke, said the results so far were better than expected.

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