Katy Hayes is looking forward to a life most people take for granted.
She told the Houston Chronicle that while she doesn’t expect to perform fine motor tasks like buttoning a blouse, she does hope to do basic things like grab a cup, brush her teeth, hold a pen and hug someone.
But it’s going to be a battle. Dr WP Andrew Lee, chairman of the plastic and recontructive surgery department at Johns Hopkins University, told the newspaper attaching full arms could be much trickier than the more common hand transplants below the elbow.
That’s because new nerves – which use the arm’s old nerves as conduits or channels – must grow a longer distance to reach the hand.
“The nerve in the arm will grow only about an inch a month. It can take a year or two to reach the hand. Functional recovery is less predictable,” Lee said.
What emboldens Katy, as she pushes forward with this historic surgery, is watching internet videos of the German farmer who was the world’s first to have the double-arm transplant. She’s amazed to see him scratch his head, shake hands, lift weights and ride a bike.
But Hayes, who used to own a spa where she enjoyed giving massages, also knows the surgical procedure is experimental and dangerous.
A 27-year-old man, who was also a quad amputee, died this year after having a double-arm transplant in Turkey.