Mom could be first double-hand transplant

PITTSBURGH, PA.; December 5, 2008

Mues is likely to become America's first double-hand transplant recipient in surgery at the University of Pittsburgh.

Mues, 30, of Redman, Oregon, lost both hands at the age of 14, to a pneumococcal sepsis, a bacterial infection.

She was not even expected to survive the infection. "They told my parents and my family every night that I wasn't expected to live through the night. I was going to die," Sarah said.

She never thought about a transplant until a University of Pittsburgh surgeon approached her at an airport in Chicago in September. He was amazed at how well she did without hands.

That doctor told her he was on his way to a meeting about Pitt's new hand transplant program, and asked whether she was interested in the program.

The next day, she met Dr. Andrew Lees, the chief of plastic surgery, who put her into the program.

Sarah can do almost everything with her remaining arms, there are some things.... for which she longs to have hands.

She says, "If I did this, I could be able to hold my kids' hands, cause intertwining your fingers, there's nothing, there's not a feeling like that in the world."

If Mues clears the final tests, she'll move to Pittsburgh to await a donor. When that occurs, Sarah is facing 18 hours or more of surgery, because her arms will need to be reconstructed to receive the new appendages.

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