Lydia Gray’s story
I (Lydia Gray) is the definition of a hard worker. I am resilient, strong, intelligent and compassionate. I immigrated to the United States as a young girl in hopes of living the American dream. In March 5, 2020, my life changed forever.
I work for Rutgers University in the office of Audit and Advisory Services by day, and spent nights and weekends dedicating myself to my small business: a snack company making Chin-Chin, from my native West Africa. Chin-Chin is a fried bite-sized pastry snack, made by dough from wheat flour. I made countless sacrifices to achieve this dream of bringing her product to grocery stores and local market shelves.
I had rented a prep kitchen space in Old bridge, NJ to mass produce the snack, and was prepping for some upcoming food exhibitions, at the Jacob Javits Exposition Center, NY. In hope to get my product’s name out there, and in main stream markets. One evening, I and my family members were working with a piece of machinery that malfunctioned. As I tried to troubleshoot, the roll of packaging bags fell on me. It caused the machine’s motor to turn on at a fast speed, and my left (dominant) hand was pulled down, and became stuck on the end where the bags are cut off, which caused my hand to become severely damaged. My daughter and nephew were present, and they called 911, and it took over 30 minutes until Paramedics and Fire Department could release my hand. I was in terrible pain and immediately felt devastated, worried that everything I had worked so hard for could now be taken away.
Hope for amputees
I was rushed to the emergency room at Jersey Shore University Medical Center where a hand surgery specialist was called in. Dr. Ajul Shah of The Center for Hand & Upper Extremity Surgery at The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction made all attempts to reconstruct my hand, but due to the amount of damage that was present, an amputation was determined to be necessary.
“When Dr. Shah was talking to me in the hospital, I felt a sudden relief.” “Something was lifting away from me. The burden of not having a hand was going away.” I trusted Dr. Shah and was open to taking the next steps with his expertise.
At the time of my amputation, Dr. Shah performed a surgery called targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR). TMR is a novel surgical procedure that involves the transfer of nerves that once controlled the amputated limb to reinnervate (restore function to) remaining muscles. Following surgery, nerves grow back into the new muscles, decreasing and preventing misdirected nerve growth, which can contribute to pain within the residual limb. TMR has the potential to treat pain from neuromas while enabling amputee patients to return to their activities of daily living and improve prosthetic use and tolerance. In addition to pain control, TMR has potential benefits for the function of the upper extremity. The nerves that are usually severed during an amputation are actually transferred to muscles. These muscles, now controlled by the transferred nerves, provide electrical signals that can be picked up by special myoelectric prosthetics for maximal functional use.
My prosthetic team at Prosthetic Innovations was instrumental in mapping and creating a prosthetic for me that met my functional goals and provided comfort for everyday use. I also was fortunate to meet with Dr. Alta Fried, a certified hand therapist who works closely with Dr. Shah. I began working with Dr. Fried following surgery and therapy has been helping me tremendously to learn how to utilize my prosthetic hand.
TMR surgery has enabled me to use a fully functional myoelectric prothesis which I can open and close naturally using her own muscles. “Lydia is a story of resilience in the face of adversity, and she has overcome a series of challenges to now have persevered and created a newly functional life for herself,” said Dr. Shah. “We want to share her story in hopes to help others who may be going through something similar.”
Having an amputation and re-adjusting to life with the use of a prosthetic device is certainly not an easy journey. There are many physical and psychological challenges that patients must face. A patient’s dedication and determination are just as important as the treatment performed by medical professionals in order to achieve a successful recovery. Although I am still adjusting to my new normal and each day brings new challenges, I am hopeful for the future and eager to start working towards my dreams again. I am passionate about raising awareness for amputees and other trauma victims.
This is the reason for setting up a GoFundMe account to Reach One Help One. Those who are not opportune to have the TMR procedure performed while suffering in a dark place with amputation or other kind of disabilities.
Please support my fundraising effort for a good cause. Some amputated individuals are hiding from society because they are ashamed of their physical appearance. I want to let them know, whatever is going on with you as a person physically does not define your INDIVIDUALITY.
Thank you for your supports.