Teen who lost arms, legs to illness stuns with piano performance

A 16-year-old girl who lost her arms and legs to a deadly illness played piano in front of a crowd for the first time in an emotional clip.

Bella Tucker won cheers and a standing ovation after plucking up the courage to perform "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to a room of 200 people at a talent show.

The inspirational teenager learned the instrument after being struck down by a deadly illness at age 8, which her parents at first thought was the flu.

Her dad, Rich Tucker, 48, said it turned her entire body purple after infecting her bloodstream, and left the the little girl on the brink of death.


Miraculously she battled back but had to have all four limbs amputated to save her life and after eight months in hospital and intensive therapy, she took up piano lessons.

Now she practices whenever she can and has mastered the skill of performing beautiful songs by pressing keys with the stumps of her arms.

"I use the tip of my arms to press the keys and I simplify the music so I play no more than two notes at a time," Tucker, of New Hampshire, said. "I always enjoy hearing the end product of a song. "

"I can imagine that people assume that I can't do all of the things that they can," she said. "When they see how independent I am they treat me the same as they would anyone else."

Tucker's ordeal began on Easter Sunday 2010 when she woke up feeling achey, tired and suffering from flu-like symptoms.

In that time the deadly illness - caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria - was seeping into her bloodstream and attacking her body.

“She said she would take it easy and ride it out a but then I noticed her stomach was starting to turn dark purple so we rushed her to ER," her dad said. 

“Within an hour her whole body was purple. She was bloated and puffy and they had her in a helicopter going to Boston Children’s Hospital," he said. "They said, 'There’s a good chance she is not going to make it.'"

Incredibly Tucker defied the odds to pull through after medics exchanged the infected plasma for healthy plasma.

Slowly the purple disappeared from her face and stomach but as that was clearing up her limbs became darker and darker until they were completely black.

Doctors had no choice but to amputate both her legs above the knee and arms above the elbow to save her core.

Ever since then, Tucker has battled to do things that other kids can do - like painting using a cloth sleeve on her arm and playing piano.

"It was the scariest time of my life but Bella's attitude throughout has just been absolutely unbelievable," her dad said. “She can’t play soccer or basketball but she started taking piano lessons and learned how to play with the ends of her arms."

“She never played before all this happened but she didn’t find it difficult - it was just a matter of finding the right song where she can play one or two keys at a time," he said. 

Tucker made her on-stage debut at a talent show during Camp No Limits, an event hosted by the No Limits Foundation, a non-profit supporting children with limb loss.

She took to the stage in front of hundreds of other children and their parents at Camp No Limits in Maine in August.

"She was really shy before and so the fact she would even get up and play in front of 200 people just blew me away," her dad said. “You could hear a pin drop it was so quiet and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. I was one of the people crying."

"She is an awesome kid. She has such a great attitude," he said. "I just love her so much."

"Bella had the room in silence while she played and brought everyone to tears of joy," Mary Leighton, founder of the No Limits Foundation, said. "She was nervous but played so beautifully. She is a beautiful soul."