A mother-of-three who lost every one of her limbs to a flesh-eating infection is to be the first person in America to have a double arm and hand transplant.
Katy Hayes contracted group A streptococcal disease (a rare variant of strep throat) shortly after the birth of her third child two years ago. Doctors were forced to amputate her arms and legs and her uterus, bowels and ovaries were also removed.
Dr William Schaffner, the chairman of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center told ABC news the strain of strep contracted by Katy is extremely rare but used to be very common among women who had just given birth hundreds of years ago.
He added: "One of the ways to try to stop it is to try to get ahead of it and cut off the piece of the body where the infection is so it doesn't keep advancing."
A team of 40 doctors and nurses will connect Katy’s new arms in a procedure expected to take at least 15 hours, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The bone stumps will be attached to metal plates and microscopes will be used to suture the arteries, veins, tendons and nerves.
Katy told KHOU-TV: “Before I was kind of dependent, laying there, not seeing really the kind of light at the end of the tunnel.
“And now I’ve got that light, and I’m just charging ahead. Because it’s within my reach. It’s going to happen.”
And she's kept her sense of humour, telling KENS5.com she is dreaming of simple pleasures such as: "Brushing my teeth; washing my face; wiping my own butt. You know — things that everyone takes for granted."
Katy’s life was changed forever after she was admitted to hospital with abdominal pains just four days after giving birth to daughter Arielle on February 10, 2010. Within hours she had suffered massive organ failure and fell into a coma.
Her husband Al was told his wife had a less than five per cent chance of surviving the infection and was asked for permission to amputate her extremities to try and contain the spread.
Hand Transplant Surgery Donors Sought
Al told ABC News: “My responsibility is if she’s going to die on an operating table I’m going to try to save her, we’re not going to sit there and let her die, she’s going to fight it and that’s what she’d want.”
On February 27 2010, in his dedicated blog 'Katy Is Strong', he described the decision to authorise the paperwork as “the most difficult piece of paper I have ever had to sign”.
“I hope that everyone will understand why I did this. I hope that Katy will forgive me. I hope that I can forgive myself.”
Katy understands her husband’s decision, telling WFAA: “It’s a complete miracle that I’m alive, so I’m so grateful… I am so grateful.
“I wouldn’t be here for my kids if they wouldn’t have taken my arms and legs.”
According to Al’s blog, Katy will be listed on the organ donor’s waiting list this summer and is set to have the surgery at Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston.