Published May 29, 2012
After losing every one of her limbs from a flesh-eating infection, a 43-year-old Texas mother of three will have another person’s arms and hands transplanted onto her in the first ever procedure of its kind in the U.S., the Houston Chronicle reported.
Katy Hayes, from Kingwood, TX, contracted the disease that took her arms and legs shortly after giving birth to her last child just two years ago. Doctors were forced to amputate her limbs above her knees and elbows, leaving behind small stubs.
“I want my life back,” Hayes told a medical team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, Mass., about why she wanted the transplant. “I want to hold my last child before she’s grown – and she’s already 2. If anybody tells me ‘no,’ I’ll just go to the next hospital. ‘No’ is not an option.”
According to the Chronicle, Hayes has been defying expectations for the past two years, after doctors thought the flesh-eating disease would ultimately claim her life. She had slipped into a coma for a month after giving birth, when she suddenly awoke to discover her arms and legs were missing.
Since then, Hayes has undergone numerous physical exams to establish she is in the best physical shape possible for the transplant.
The surgical procedure is expected to take at least 15 hours and will require about 40 medical personnel, the Chronicle said. According to Dr. W. P. Andrew Lee, chairman of the plastic and reconstructive surgery department at Johns Hopkins University, the transplantation process will be extremely tricky because new nerves must attach to the arms old nerves and grow a very long distance to reach the new hands.
“The nerve in the arm will grow only about an inch a month,” Lee told the Houston Chronicle. “It can take a year or two to reach the hand. Functional recovery is less predictable.”
Hayes understands that even if the procedure is a success, she still won’t have fine motor skills like the ability to button a shirt. However, she is looking forward to possibly performing tasks she could never do currently – such as grabbing cups, brushing her teeth or giving hugs.
She also hopes to pave the way for more complex transplants in the future.
"I'll be their guinea pig," Hayes said. "But I'll also be that pioneer in a new world who can one day talk to others about having transplants."