Quadruple Amputee Gets Two New Hands on Life


"People used to turn and look at me when I walked down the street because of how beautiful I was," Lindsay said. "Now they turn and look at me because I'm in a wheelchair and have no hands and feet. The type of person that I was would be the type of person I would hate now. I used to care way too much about what I looked like. What does it matter what my hair looks like? What does it matter what I'm wearing so much?"

Lindsay had to wait for a donor. Dr. Scott Levin, her orthopedic surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, said if was preferable if Lindsay's donor hands were female, and had a size and skin color that matched hers.

Waiting for a donor was the part that Lindsay said she found the most difficult.

"I hate thinking about that," she said. "I think that whoever's hands will be with purpose, not just used to look pretty."

"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. "The nerves have to grow into those muscles, takes months, it can take a year."

And there is still the possibility that the surgery can fail.

"Failure means the part that doesn't survive and we have to re-amputate the transplant," Levin said. "That's failure."

For nearly 12 hours, two separate teams of surgeons, one dedicated to the left hand, the other to the right, worked to perform an operation so cutting-edge that it has been done more than 70 times worldwide in the past 15 years.

After the surgery, Lindsay was in a cocoon of bandages. Levin said the initial signs for recovery were good.

"This is more than we could ever hope for," he said. "Her blood pressure is good, all the parameters related to how to blood flow in and out of her new arms. This is, if you will, a picture perfect course so far."

Less than a month after her surgery, Lindsay was out of the ICU and working on a therapy regime. The skin color of her new hands and arms wasn't exactly the same as her upper arms. They still looked like they belonged to someone else.

"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 [but] I'm so grateful to have them that I just don't really think about it superficially."

Four months after her surgery, in January 2012, Lindsay's doctors said they continued to be amazed at her recovery. They said they didn't expect her to have fine motion control for another 12 to 18 months, but her muscles were reacting well. She could even pick up lightweight objects.

In February, Lindsey was allowed to go home for the first time since the surgery five months before. Levin said the prognosis for both hands couldn't be better. Even so, rejection was still a huge concern.

Tune into a special edition of "Nightline," "To Hold Again," TONIGHT at 11:35 p.m. ET on ABC to find out what happens to Lindsay and how she moves forward.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...