Drs: Double Arm Transplant For Flesh-Eating Bacteria Survivor


The Drs: Flesh-Eating Bacteria Takes Man’s Limbs

The Doctors asked: what if you had to choose between saving your life and saving your limbs? For Will, he was facing the decision, but it was just the start of his journey. Will shared that he was an adjunct lecturer at Boston University for four years, teaching screenwriting. In the summer of 2011, he was hired by Montana State University, which had everything he wanted. As he was getting ready to pack, he felt a pull in his leg as if he got a muscle cramp.

Drs: Double Arm Transplant For Flesh-Eating Bacteria Survivor

The Doctors talked to the man who underwent a double arm transplant after a flesh-eating bacteria took all of his limbs. (Alemon cz / Shutterstock.com)


Angel, Will’s partner, explained that they thought it was just from him lifting heavy boxes, but after they got to Montana it got worse and worse each day. By the time his classes started, he could barely walk, so he went and saw a doctor, who found that his oxygen levels were down. The Doctor decided that he needed to be on a ventilator. By the time his brother and Angel arrived, he was in a coma and everything had shut down.

The Drs: Double Arm Transplant

Will’s body had gone into septic shock from a body-wide infection. He had complete organ failure, including heart failure three times. He gained about 80 pounds of fluid in two days due to the amount of liquid the doctors were putting into him to keep him alive. They stabilized him enough to transport him to another hospital and that’s when they began to see problems with his skin.

The doctors made the diagnosis of Necrotizing Fasciitis, more commonly known as “flesh-eating bacteria.” Will started to come out of his coma and found it impossible to move his hands and feet. When the doctors unwrapped his hands, he saw a “blackened mummified hand.” Because the infection would spread and eventually reached his organs, the only way they could cure him was to cut out the infection, which meant they had to amputate.


In order to save his life, doctors had to amputate both of Will’s arms and legs. Will said when he first saw himself in a mirror, he was confused and saddened, saying it was like looking at a stranger.

The Drs: Groundbreaking Procedure For Amputee

Will started to pursue a groundbreaking medical procedure. He explained that people kept sending him articles about a breakthrough surgery, which Will said was the best chance he had of regaining his function. Will qualified for surgery to receive two donor arms. Dr Simon Talbot, explained that the surgery would take between nine and 12 hours and involve at least 35 staff members, including at least 13 surgeons.

They had to match size, color, and gender of the limbs, as well as making sure there were no injuries. They had to make sure Will had no antibodies against the donor arms. The donor arms are trimmed to the length they’re needed to be and then the bones are joined together with metal plates and screws, while the arteries are joined together by microscopic stitches. The muscle, veins, and nerves are all brought together one at a time, before the skin is sewn together in a “zig-zag.”

The Drs: Living With Arm Transplants

The Doctors welcomed Will and Angel to the show. Will said a week or two after surgery, he still wasn’t able to move his arms, but then at about three weeks post surgery, he was able to perform a little movement. Now, he’s able to fully bend his arm at the elbow.

Will said that if his story isn’t a testament to organ donation, then he doesn’t know what is. He said it’s something everyone should consider. Will shared that the donor’s family is anonymous, which makes him feel like he has to “love humanity even more.”

Angel shared that it’s been a challenge going through it all with Will, but he couldn’t see it any other way.


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