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While packing for her journey from Texas to Boston, Katy Hayes made sure to tuck a very special item into her luggage: her wedding ring.
"I can't wait to wear it again," said the 44-year-old mother of three, who lost her arms above the elbows and her legs above the knees in 2009.
She was listed this week as a candidate for a bilateral arm transplant at BWH, which will be the first surgery of its kind in the nation. It will enable Hayes to do what is most important to her-hug her children and her husband. She will also be able to wear her ring again, on her new hand.
During a Sept. 12 press conference, Hayes joined Bohdan Pomahac, MD, director of Plastic Surgery Transplantation, and Simon G. Talbot, MD, surgical lead for the Hand Transplant Team, to discuss the transplant as she awaits a donor through the New England Organ Bank.
"The possibility of undergoing this surgery gives me hope," said Hayes, who developed streptococcal A infection and slipped into a coma just days after the birth of her third child nearly three years ago. Doctors amputated her limbs to save her life.
Since then, she has been dependent on her family, especially her husband Al, for everything. "I never thought about how much of a gift your hands really are," said Hayes, who previously was a massage therapist and an active runner. "I can't do things for myself, and it's been a hard road, but I love life. I'm really looking forward to the transplant and what it will help me to accomplish."
Talbot and Pomahac explained that, when a donor match becomes available, the procedure will transplant two arms above Hayes' elbows. Last October, BWH surgeons performed a similar operation on Richard Mangino, 65, of Revere, who was a quadruple amputee, but his surgery was performed below the elbows.
"We are hopeful that as a result of the transplant, Katy will be able to flex her elbows," said Pomahac. "This will allow her to be able to transfer herself to and from her wheelchair, as well as perform some daily activities of living, such as brushing her teeth."
For Pomahac, the surgery represents another step forward in
transplantation. "I really believe we're entering a new era in medicine, one where almost any human part can be replaced by a transplant," he said.
As she awaits the transplant, Hayes continues to reflect upon the selfless gift of organ and limb donors and their families. "They leave a legacy of hope and love that helps hundreds of people," she said. "When I receive my arms, I will thank the donor family for letting me hold my children again."