Katy and Al Hayes at Brigham and Women’s Hosptial with Dr. Bohdan Pomahac (right) and Dr. Simon Talbot (left.)
Billy Smith/Houston Chronicle

Doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have approved Katy Hayes of Kingwood, Texas, for a double arm transplant. The 44-year-old mother of three would be the first person in the United States to receive a transplant of both arms above the elbow. A similar procedure was performed in Germany.

Hayes lost her arms and legs two years ago, when she was infected with a flesh-eating bacteria after giving birth.

“Two years ago, I walked on my own two feet into the emergency room and most of the doctors there said I would die,” Hayes said at a press conference at the hospital Wednesday morning.

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Doctors were able to save enough nerve and muscle when her arms were removed at about mid-biceps to make the transplant possible. Brigham surgeons said a transplant could give Hayes the ability to bend her elbows, making it possible for her to lift herself out of a wheelchair. They said they were not sure, because so few of these transplants have been performed, how much hand sensitivity or fine motor skills she would gain.

“I have to be baby-sat, which is ridiculous. I’m 44 years old,” Hayes said. “I’m really looking forward to having my independence back.”

Hayes was a massage therapist and said the loss of her hands has been painful.

“I still feel like myself inside,” she said. “I don’t think of myself as different until I look in the mirror. It’s hard to look in the mirror. It’s hard.”

Hayes and her family moved to the area in anticipation of the transplant, which required her husband to leave his job as a middle school teacher. The Brigham is working with the New England Organ Bank to find a donor. Read more about Hayes’s story on their family blog.