Today, Lydia is beautiful, confident, a college graduate, and busy wife and mother. She works full time as a social worker and her husband Troy says that even she is surprised by her many accomplishments.
"She never thought she was going to get married," he says. "We got married. She never thought she was going to have children; we got one, two and then three children."
Perhaps even more remarkable is Lydia's attitude about all she's suffered.
"I wouldn't trade my life for anything," she says.
Even as a child, she says she realized that losing her legs and her family was the price she had to pay for a better life.
After becoming a mom, Lydia says she reached a turning point. She began to yearn for her own mother — whom she had not seen since she was a baby. Suddenly, she needed to know what had happened to her family, if they were still alive, and whether they needed help.
But she did not even know their names. She had no idea how to begin.
But once again, Lydia's life took a serendipitous turn. At church one Sunday, a visiting stranger approached her with unbelievable news.
"Somebody came to me and said, 'I know your family,'" she recalls.
The man turned out to be her cousin. He told her that he had grown up hearing about his Ethiopian cousin who lost her legs in a fire. He eventually moved from Ethiopia to Canada and heard again of Lydia's story from a mutual friend. Realizing the connection, he came to Seattle to find her.
Since he was then living in Canada, he couldn't tell her much about her family's current situation. But on his next trip back to Ethiopia, he returned with joyous news: The family was alive and anxious to see her.
Lydia and Troy made plans to go to Ethiopia.
"If my mother died and went to her grave wishing she had met me now that she knows I'm alive and living in America," she says, "that would be really a nightmare for me."
Into the Past
When Lydia and Troy arrived in Ethiopia, they faced a serious setback. They could not find the man who had planned to meet them and act as their guide. Lydia knew roughly where her mother's village was, but there are no detailed maps of the region so she couldn't go alone. Lydia and Troy spent two frustrating weeks desperately trying to find someone who could help them.
Finally, just two days before they had planned to leave, their guide, a cousin who still lives in Ethiopia, made contact and they were on their way to the bush. Lydia's friend, Solomon Gizaw, a pilot in Ethiopia, donated his time, ABCNEWS paid for the plane fuel and they were off.
On a small landing strip, 10 miles from where Lydia's mother lived, the plane landed on a grassy clearing. In the field, a group of villagers had gathered. "Everybody was totally lost in amazement," Solomon remembers. "Everyone had heard the story of Lydia "
But Lydia could not make the hike to the village on her prosthetic legs. Her cousin and Solomon would have to make the trip, first by truck, then on foot, to fetch her mother while Lydia waited nervously at a small guesthouse nearby.
Long after dark, more than five hours after they left, Solomon and Lydia's cousin returned and a small woman dressed in the headscarves of her Muslim village appeared in the doorway. The mother, whose name is Asha, clung to her long-lost daughter and tearfully repeated to herself, "Oh my God, it is really her."
They spent several tender hours together, sharing tears and life stories.