Woman who lost all four limbs vows to walk, dance again, with help of prosthetics

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POSTED: Friday, September 28, 2012 - 6:00am

UPDATED: Friday, September 28, 2012 - 7:04am

A young Dallas, Texas woman whose limbs were amputated after contracting a severe bacterial infection plans to walk again.

Whitney Mitchell, 20, is learning to adapt to life minus both arms and legs.

She can brush her teeth and feed herself.

She also types, spending a lot of time at her computer, blogging and making video journals.

"I'm grateful that I'm alive, that I get to live my life," she said. "Each moment I never take for granted."

She was just 18 years old in late 2010 when sepsis ravaged her body, causing it to shut off blood flow to her limbs.

"Her hands were turning dark," said her mother, Patricia Kirven. "And they were just, like, basically dying right before us."

Mitchell doesn't remember much about that time, but her mother does.

"And when Whitney was conscious, she still had the breathing tube in her mouth, and she would hold up her arm and she would mouth, 'What's wrong with my hands?'," Kirven said.

Nearly two years later, Mitchell spends much of her time in her room, a sanctuary papered in glossy magazine ads and posters of her favorite music stars.

But she wants to get out -- stand up and dance.

Mitchell has been that told it's possible, but she needs more surgery.

Additional amputation of her legs would allow her to wear a prosthetic leg -- a microprocessor-controlled knee and ankle.

"As long as she gets the right-fitting socket, the right alignment, the right components that will match her functional level, she'll do great," said Scott Williams, of Scott Sabolich Prosthetics and Research.

But there's been a hiccup.

The surgery was scheduled for late September, but the surgeon unexpectedly backed out.

Now Mitchell is desperate to find another doctor.

"I'm trying to really stay positive and I know that I'll find somebody to do my surgery," she said.

The prostheses would allow her to walk down ramps and over steps and perhaps even dance again -- something she always loved to do before.

While she waits for the surgery, Mitchell is working to strengthen her body.

It takes a lot of energy to move prosthetics.

It's a lot to prepare for, but nothing like what she's been through already, Mitchell said.

"I'm amazed at how much strength I have sometimes," she said. "Because I didn't know I had it in me."

Mitchell said she often thinks about using her experience to inspire other young people with disabilities and teenagers facing extraordinary life challenges and plans to be a motivational speaker.

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