BALTIMORE (WJZ) — This is a personal story for us at WJZ.
On Easter 2017, our coworker Deb Kelly had to have her lower arms and legs amputated after developing sepsis.
Six months later, we profiled her as she was learning to work with her prosthetics.
Miraculously, this past Thanksgiving, Deb underwent a very rare double hand transplant at Duke University Hospital. and you should see her now.
Back in 2017, Deb was in rehab here in Baltimore after her quadruple amputation.
She was coping as she adapted to her prosthetics.
Deb’s positive, practical, determined attitude has served her well on this journey.
A little over a year ago, she moved to Raleigh, North Carolina to be with her sister and near Duke University Hospital.
Months and months of surgeries, rehab and relearning to do all of the activities she loves at times took their toll.
“There were those nights when, you know I would just sit there and cry,” Kelly said. “But no, I’m here for a reason. something made me survive.”
Duke University Hospital decided Deb was a perfect candidate for an extremely rare bi-lateral or double hand transplant. So, the waiting began.
“The woman who is going to donate her hands to me is alive right now and walking around and doesn’t know and I pray every night for her and for her family,” Kelly said.
On Thanksgiving night, Deb got the call.
“When I got the call I thought OK now,” Kelly said. “This is really the beginning of the rest of my life.”
A gracious family donated the limbs of their loved one for her.
Dr. Linda Cendales and a team of 40 performed the operation as part of a clinical trial — a first for Duke.
Fourteen hours later, Deb’s sister Michelle gets her first look.
“Oh my gosh,” Michelle cried.
And then Deb woke up to realized, “I can push up my glasses.”
Two weeks later, Deb leaves the hospital for months of rehab.
“I have hands, that move. I can feel them. I can feel the muscles. I don’t have any feeling yet. that takes a long time. but, I have hands,” she said.
“To see how her life changed, because her life changed, is rewarding not only for me but for the entire team,” Cendales said. “Her perseverance is something we’ve all learned from.”
Hundreds of miles away, those who love Deb, are also learning from her — how to overcome loss, to tackle adversity and live life on your own terms.
Appreciate every single small, but essential moment.