Mom who lost limbs says system hindering rehabilitation

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on May 12, 2011 at 10:29 PM

Updated Thursday, May 12 at 11:46 PM

KINGWOOD, Texas - Learning to live without limbs has been a struggle for Katy Hayes, but the 43-year-old mother has made it work.

Hayes is the Texas mother of three who had her arms and legs amputated at Parkland Hospital in February last year after developing a rare flesh-eating strep infection. She had just given birth for the third time.

The Hayes put great effort into being an ordinary family. They go camping, and Mrs. Hayes even sings backup for husband Al's band, Soulshine. But, for most things, she relies on her husband and her two older children.

It's been tough on 8-year-old Jake.

"This is not easy for me," Mrs. Hayes said through tears. "I said, 'You have to watch your sister for me,'  and he says, 'Mom,  I don't want to; I'm tired of watching her and I just want to do my own thing.'  And I said, 'I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do. This is the way it is and you've just got to buck up and do what I need you to do because I can't do it.'"

"I tried to explain that this is really hard for me because I'm a hands-on mom and I can't be," she continued. "So, I need him to come around to that and own it, and this is really hard for him because he's a kid."

She's convinced, though, she could be doing much more.

Because her condition qualifies her for disability, she is not eligible for Medicaid, which would cover her huge medical bills and rehabilitation.

"The government disability assistance qualifies you to a financial level where you don't qualify for government assistance," Mr. Hayes said. "That's what doesn't make any sense to me."

"It's tragedy heaped on tragedy," he said.

The Hayes have actually been advised to divorce, then Mrs. Hayes could qualify for government insurance. Repulsed by the idea, Mrs. Hayes is rehabbing herself at home. She's also training, with daily workouts that include core crunches for something even bigger.

"These arms are really wonderful, but they're really limited," she said. "That's why we're reaching out to doctors to get arm transplants because if I could have a hand, "a hand." One hand would change my life. I could brush my hair, brush my own teeth."

"What better reason to give someone hands than to hold their baby?" her husband said. "What better reason?"

If she can't hold her baby Arielle, for now, Mrs. Hayes said she is happy sharing a few steps with her.

"She runs," she said with a laugh. "She's showing me up."

Mrs. Hayes said it's not the lack of legs and arms that's holding her back, but the system. But, like most moms, she's doing what she has to, marching ahead one baby step at a time.

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