Texas mom to get two new arms in landmark procedure

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on September 12, 2012 at 5:18 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 13 at 1:07 PM

A Boston hospital has announced details of a landmark double arm transplant for Texas quadruple amputee Katy Hayes.

"I brought my wedding ring with me here, so we're waiting to put my wedding ring on my new hand," she said at a news conference Wednesday at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston

That — and the dream of hugging her three children again — has the 44-year-old Kingwood, Texas mother stoked.

Hayes' arms and legs were amputated two years ago to save her life from a flesh-eating bacteria.

News 8 has followed Hayes as she learned to live without limbs. She says prosthetics just haven't worked for her.

"I'm so excited I can't tell you," she said. "I think about it all the time."

Doctors at Brigham and Women's Hospital discussed details of the double arm transplant. Donor arms will be attached with metal implants. Then, tendons, blood vessels, and tiny nerve fibers will be reconnected.

Doctors will take into account the donor's skeletal size, skin color, and gender. But it is an unquestionably complex procedure with no guarantees.

"Can you imagine like a fiber optic cable that you cut in half then you're trying to put it back together?" Dr. Bohdan Pomahac asked. "It's very difficult to assure."

"The surgery will take us the best part of a day," added Dr. Simon Talbot, who is also on the transplant team, "And then she has a very long road of recovery, which involves occupational therapy and physical therapy."

Regaining sensation is expected to take more than a year. But Hayes said she can't wait to look down and see arms again.

"I lost all my scars that I had memories with. And my best friends are gone forever, so I'll never know what they look like except for pictures," she said through tears. "But my new friends are going to take care of me and my family. And I'm very excited to meet them."

Expenses for the operation and rehabilitation are being paid for by Brigham and Women's Hospital. The doctors are donating their services.

Living expenses have put a financial strain on the Hayes family. Al Hayes, a middle school band director, had to quit his job and move their two youngest children to Boston as they await the transplant.

The family may have to live there for two years. A trust has been set up to pay for Katy Hayes' medical needs beyond the surgery.

The Hayes won't be able to tell even their closest family members when the transplant happens for 10 days, to protect the identity of the arm donor.

With the right donor, the transplant could happen any day.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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