Rehab giving new lease on life to quadruple amputee in Norfolk


by Sandra Parker

Posted on July 21, 2010 at 3:16 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 21 at 5:46 PM

NORFOLK -- A year and a half ago, Jackie Richard was working in Alabama and got a bad stomach ache. It got worse the next day.

She called in sick and her roommate took her to the hospital.

"It just turned from a stomach infection to sepsis and the sepsis took all over my body," she said.

Sepsis, a blood infection, caused almost all of her organs to shut down. To save her life, doctors had to amputate her hands and her legs below the knee.

She was given only a 15 percent chance of survival.  Her parents were told to prepare to make funeral arrangements.

After six months in the hospital, five spent in intensive care, Richard was well enough to leave.  Her sister brought her to Hampton Roads for rehab with the Sentara Rehab program. 

She was in a wheelchair when she started intensive daily therapy at Sentara Day Rehabilitation Unit about year ago.  Now, she has prosthetic legs and myoelectric hands which respond to her muscle contractions.

Therapist Leigh Ann Leary has been amazed at Richard's determination and attitude.

"You will not meet more of a fighter than this girl really," she said. "I would set goals and she would blow them out of the water."

Richard admits it's not always easy to be positive.

"You have these pity parties and I feel sorry for myself, but I've just been bound and determined to get back to where I wanted to be or to where I was going, where I was heading," she said.

She's also been working with her therapists to come up with devices that help her do everyday activities without using her myoelectric arms, which can get pretty heavy.

"She's amazing. In 22 years, I've never had anybody like her. She's a miracle," Leary stated.

Her sister is in Iraq right now to supplement her income because the recovery has been a financial hardship on the whole family.