RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Imagine being without hands and forearms for four years, and then watching your new hands working, not knowing where they had been before, what they had touched and felt and done.
All Lindsay Ess knows about her donor is her height and weight.
And that the young woman had a tad bit more hair on her forearms.
This is a somewhat jarring subject for Lindsay, a 29-year-old woman who has been completely open about the turn her life took five years ago, when she suffered a major sepsis infection following intestinal surgery because of Crohn’s disease.
The raging infection required doctors to amputate her arms below the elbows and her legs below her knees.
This adventurous, extremely fit VCU fashion graduate came within a whisker of dying.
Lindsay, or Lu as her friends call her, grabbed what was left of her life with all of her heart.
A year and two months ago, she got the call that a donor had been found that would give her hands and forearms again.
Dr. L. Scott Levin led the team at the University of Pennsylvania hospital that performed the extremely rare double hand and forearm transplant. It took a team of 30 surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists more than 12 hours.
Imagine feeling your new hands slowly coming back to life, a half-centimeter or so a month, starting at the forearms.
She loves talking with her hands.
Lindsay wants to stay active in the VCU fashion world, art directing, substitute teaching.
But now she’s going to back to school to become a rehabilitation counselor. She wants to help the soldiers coming home with challenges similar to the ones he has braved, and the ones to follow.
We visited with Lindsay in her Richmond apartment, as her mother, Judith Aronson, finished a nice traditional Thanksgiving dinner for the two of them.
Lindsay’s eyes filled with tears as she talked about how her mother sacrificed her job, her personal life, to help her every single day.
She said she’s also grateful for her donor and her doctors, particularly Dr. Scott Levin, who lead the surgical team.
And she’s also very grateful for the hundreds of people who have followed her struggle, encouraged her, prayed for her, loved her, so many of them she has never met. One, a woman who is in her 90s, has sent her a warm letter most every month, with never a return address – so Lindsay hasn’t been able to send a thank-you note.
Two more years and her hands should be almost as functional as her old ones.