Quadruple Amputee Gets Two New Hands on Life

Lindsay Ess, 29, lost her limbs to an infection five years ago.

ByABC News
January 3, 2013, 4:34 PM

Jan. 4, 2013— -- It's the simplest thing, the grasp of one hand in another. But Lindsay Ess will never see it that way, because her hands once belonged to someone else.

Growing up in Texas and Virginia, Lindsay, 29, was always one of the pretty girls. She went to college, did some modeling and started building a career in fashion, with an eye on producing fashion shows.

Then she lost her hands and feet.

When she was 24 years old, Lindsay had just graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University's well-regarded fashion program when she developed a blockage in her small intestine from Crohn's Disease. After having surgery to correct the problem, an infection took over and shut down her entire body. To save her life, doctors put her in a medically-induced coma. When she came out of the coma a month later, still in a haze, Lindsay said she knew something was wrong with her hands and feet.

"I would look down and I would see black, almost like a body that had decomposed," she said.

The infection had turned her extremities into dead tissue. Still sedated, Lindsay said she didn't realize what that meant at first.

"There was a period of time where they didn't tell me that they had to amputate, but somebody from the staff said, 'Oh honey, you know what they are going to do to your hands, right?' That's when I knew," she said.

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 cellphone with her arms, which were amputated just below the elbow.

"The most common questions I get are, 'How do you type,'" she said. "It's just like chicken-pecking."

PHOTOS: Lindsay Ess Gets New Hands

Despite her progress, Lindsay said she faced challenges being independent. Her mother, Judith Aronson, basically moved back into her daughter's life to provide basic care, including bathing, dressing and feeding. Having also lost her feet, Lindsay needed her mother to help put on her prosthetic legs.

"I've accepted the fact that my feet are gone, that's acceptable to me," Lindsay said. "My hands [are] not. It's still not. In my dreams I always have my hands."

Through her amputation recovery, Lindsay discovered a lot of things about herself, including that she felt better emotionally by not focusing on the life that was gone and how much she hated needing so much help but that she also truly depends on it.

"I'm such an independent person," she said. "But I'm also grateful that I have a mother like that, because what could I do?"

Lindsay said she found that her 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."

For the next couple of years, Lindsay exercised diligently as part of the commitment she made to qualify for a hand transplant, which required her to be in shape. But the tough young woman now said she saw her body in a different way now.