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ITALIAN MAN HAS 6 NEW ORGANS - AND AN APPETITE

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Leonardo Cioce is a walking, talking medical miracle.

He should be dead. But there he was at his hospital, smiling in front of TV cameras with six new organs and eager to return to his homeland to eat better pizza.Cioce, 29, an industrial equipment designer from Bari, Italy, looked like a goner last year when he was brought to Jackson Memorial Hospital. Tumors, some the size of grapefruits, had ravaged most of his vital organs. He was bleeding inside. Infections were eating him alive.

But surgeons transplanted six new organs into Cioce, virtually cleaning out his abdominal cavity during the 36-hour operation July 15.

His kidney, pancreas, stomach, large intestine, small intestine and liver were removed. They were replaced with organs taken from a brain-dead donor. Other parts of Cioce's innards had been removed previously.

Never before in the United States had so many organs been transplanted into a patient's abdomen, experts said.

"It is still difficult for me to realize I have so many different parts of someone else's body," Cioce said Tuesday as surgeons and nurses gave him a going-home party with cake.

Worried a year ago about whether he would see his next birthday, Cioce said he is now looking forward to returning home to eat real Italian food again.

"America is great, but the pizza here is just awful," he said through an interpreter.

Cioce leaves Miami on Saturday to return home to Bari with his father.

He had been living in an apartment near the hospital for nine months while doctors gave him medication to keep his immune system from rejecting the new organs.

Cioce had Gardner's Syndrome, a congenital disease in which tumors slowly invaded and strangled his organs. Doctors in Milan, Italy, had tried for 10 years to remove or shrink the reappearing fibrous tumors.

Transplanting the new organs "was a nightmare," said Dr. Andreas Tzakis at Jackson Memorial. "It was quite a demanding case technically to do. We were very tense."