Beth Rayas (pictured) plugs her arms in at night.
After a medical nightmare left her a quad amputee, Rayas' two advanced prosthetic arms — and her refusal to quit — allow her to do things that past generations of amputees could never do.
The 46-year-old mother of three from Parker saw her life changed forever when she was hospitalized in May. A twisted ovary became infected, and Beth went into septic shock. Her husband, Ed, said doctors told him she might not survive.
"She's always been a fighter," Ed Rayas said.
Amputating Rayas' limbs below the elbows and knees gave her the best chance to survive the blood-borne infection. She emerged from a coma a month later, alive but altered.
Ed Rayas holds one of his wife's prosthetic hands during a therapy session Thursday. wish it away, because I'm not thoroughly enjoying this," Rayas said. "It's not the way I'd recommend losing weight."
Rayas, an aviation software developer, says she misses her hands the most.
Two weeks ago, she was fitted for i-Limbs, advanced prosthetic arms and hands developed in the 1990s by Touch Bionics in Scotland.
The i-Limb is a myoelectric prosthesis, controlled by muscle movement in what remains of the limb. It can be swapped in and out with other prosthetic devices as the user needs, explained Jack Uellendahl, a prosthetics clinical specialist at Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics.
Hanger fits amputees for prosthetics and works with the Denver Clinic for Extremities at Risk at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver, where Rayas undergoes physical therapy.
Unlike previous myoelectric hands, the hand on the i-Limb features fingers that move individually, allowing users to pinch between thumb and forefinger and giving a more secure grip on everyday items, Uellendahl said.
The i-Limb can also be programmed directly from an amputee's home computer to perform different grasping actions. Older devices need the programming of a professional prosthetist.
Carrie Davis, who works for Hanger as an advocate for people with upper- extremity amputations, says improvements in prosthetics make a big difference for people like herself.
Davis, 39, was born without her left arm below the elbow.
"You don't need all your body parts to be able to do anything you want," Davis told a group of physical and occupational therapists at Presbyterian/St. Luke's on Thursday.
Rayas can already use her i-Limbs to pick up cups of water, stack plastic cones and thread a shoelace through small holes.
Uellendahl said an i-Limb can cost more than $50,000, but Ed Rayas said his wife has worked with their insurance carrier to cover much of the cost.
There are limits to the i-Limb. Rayas can't use many touchscreen devices, and the 4-pound limbs are tiring to wear for long periods of time. They do allow her to type, and she will return to work as soon as her mobility and strength allow it.
"It's better than not having hands," Rayas said. "It works."
Saturday, January 8, 2011
The Denver Post:
Posted by BA Haller at 10:04 PM