BOSTON — A Texas woman who lost all four limbs to a flesh-eating bacteria has been approved for a double arm transplant at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital in what will be the first such procedure performed in the United States.
Katy Hayes, 44, of Kingwood, Texas, will receive two new arms above the elbow. The hospital is working with a regional organ donor bank to find a donor. The surgery has not yet been scheduled.
“I have the determination to make these arms my own,” Hayes said at a news conference in Boston. “I want my life back. I want to hold my children. I want to hug my husband.”
Hayes contracted a life-threatening Group A Streptococcal infection after giving birth to her third child in February 2010. She lost her large intestine and her uterus as well as her limbs.
The transplant could give Hayes the ability to flex and extend her elbows and to lift herself out of a wheelchair.
The level of function she will acquire, especially in her new hands, is uncertain, said Bohdan Pomahac, director of plastic surgery transplantation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Hayes and her family moved from Texas in July to prepare for the surgery. She has been undergoing psychological and physical screening at the hospital to determine her eligibility for the grueling surgery and long recovery.
Among other things, the former massage therapist said she is looking forward to wearing her wedding ring again.
“When you don’t have hands, you can’t wear rings,” she said.
The world’s first double above-the-elbow arm transplant was performed in Germany in 2008 on a farmer who had lost both limbs in a farming accident.
Brigham and Women’s has done two double hand transplants in the past few years, and a few other U.S. hospitals have performed the hand surgeries.
Arm transplants are considered less difficult, technically, than hand transplants, but the recovery is more challenging and the potential nerve connections more tenuous.