Judith Aronson
  • Lindsay Ess slideshow

    Growing up in Texas and Virginia, Lindsay Ess, now 29, was always one of the pretty girls. She went to Virginia Commonwealth University's well-regarded fashion program, did some modeling and started building a career in fashion, with an eye on producing fashion shows. Then she lost her hands and feet.
    Judith Aronson
  • Lindsay Ess slideshow

    When she was 24 years old, Lindsay developed a blockage in her small intestine from Crohn's Disease. After surgery to correct the problem, a sepsis infection took over and shut down her entire body, turning her extremities into dead tissue. To save her life, doctors amputated her hands and feet.
    KC Johnson
  • Lindsay Ess slideshow

    Lindsay working at the Dillard's swimwear fashion show in 2011. After having her hands and feet amputated, Lindsay adapted. She learned how to drink from a cup, brush her teeth and even text on her cell phone and type on a computer. "The most common questions I get are, 'How do you type,'" she said. "It's just like chicken pecking."
    KC Johnson
  • Lindsay Ess slideshow

    But Lindsay faced challenges with independence. Her mother, Judith Aronson, basically moved back into her daughter's life to provide the kind of care that would have been their connection 20 years earlier, including bathing, dressing and eating. Having also lost her feet, Lindsay also needed her mother to help put on her prosthetic legs.
    ABC News
  • Lindsay Ess slideshow

    While she adjusted to the prosthetic legs, the prosthetic arms were a struggle. "These prosthetics are s---," she said. "I can't do anything with them. I can't do anything behind my head. They are heavy. They are made for men. They are claws, they are not feminine whatsoever."
    ABC News
  • Lindsay Ess slideshow

    For the next few years, Lindsay exercised diligently to qualify for a hand transplant, which required her to be in shape. But one of the most difficult parts, she said, was waiting for a donor. Dr. Scott Levin, Lindsay's orthopedic surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania, said it was preferable if Lindsay's donor hands were female, of a comparable size and a skin color that matched.
    Judith Aronson
  • Lindsay Ess slideshow

    In September 2011, after four years without hands or feet and spending a month on the waiting list for a transplant, Lindsay got the call that a donor was ready. She and her mom rushed to University of Pennsylvania hospital. Two separate teams of surgeons, one for the left hand, the other for the right, performed the cutting edge operation for nearly 12 hours.
    PENN Medicine
  • Lindsay Ess slideshow

    After the surgery, Lindsay was in a cocoon of bandages. Dr. Scott Levin said while initial signs were good, there was still a possibility that her body could reject the transplants. "The first couple of days I refused to look at them," Lindsay said. "It was kind of like one of those scary movie moments. I'm too scared to look because it's reality."
    ABC News
  • Lindsay Ess slideshow

    Four months after her surgery, in January 2012, Lindsay's doctors continued to be amazed with the pace of her recovery. They said they didn't expect for her to have fine motion control for another 12 to 18 months, but her muscles reacted well. "In Lindsay's case, the hookup of the new hand is relying on her nerves growing into the new muscles from the donor," Levin said.
    ABC News
  • Lindsay Ess slideshow

    Even with her remarkable progress, rejection was still a huge concern. Lindsay's steroid dose was increased when her body threatened to reject the transplants, causing her to gain weight, which was discouraging. Less than a year after the surgery, Lindsay was able to extend her fingers, pick up a penny, even painting was part of her daily therapy.
    ABC News
  • Lindsay Ess slideshow

    Fifteen months after the transplants, Lindsay's gratitude has not diminished. "I say like they're 99.9 percent mine, but there's still a little part of her that's running through me," she said. "I feel like they're a gift and they'll always be a gift."
    ABC News
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