Bionic Woman: Against all odds

Imagine losing your child and all four of your limbs in one night. One woman had to face this reality head-on.

Shannon Smith was six-months pregnant with her second child when something went wrong.

"I wasn't feeling that well that morning, and so I went to the hospital and was told that I would have to have an emergency C-section," Smith said.

During the procedure, she developed sepsis and a condition that caused blood clots, loss of circulation and organ failure.

"I developed clots all throughout my body, and, which stopped the circulation to my limbs," she said.

She slipped into a coma and then, three weeks later, she learned that she had lost her baby and her limbs would need to be amputated.

Seventeen surgeries and eleven months later, Smith became one of the first people to get four nerve-activated prosthetics, that all work together, to keep her going.

“There's basically a computer in that knee that is monitoring every step she takes," said Christopher Berger, clinical director at the East Coast Orthotic and Prosthetic Corporation.

The high-tech limbs have given her a new lease on life and a new nickname, the “Bionic Woman.”

"I have seen her, you know, go from being in a wheelchair pretty much full time, to being able to put her limbs on, to being able to walk,” said Berger.

Smith enjoys the independence her limbs have given her.

"My son and my family, you know, God, everything, it just keeps me going," Smith said.

Now, the “Bionic Woman” is adjusting to her new normal life and looking forward to taking her next steps towards independence.

The microprocessor in Smith’s knee understands her needs based on ground reaction forces.

REPORT #2030

BACKGROUND: Shannon Smith was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. During her emergency C-section, she slipped into a coma that lasted for three weeks. When she finally woke up, she discovered that she had contracted septic shock and disseminated intravascular coagulation, which led to blood clots, loss of circulation, and kidney and liver failure. In order to keep her alive, doctors were forced to amputate significant portions of both of her arms and legs. (Source:
SEPTIC SHOCK: Septic Shock, also called Sepsis, is an extreme immune system response to an infection that has spread throughout the blood and tissues. Severe sepsis often causes extremely low blood pressure. Symptoms can include fever or low body temperature, rapid breathing, chills and shaking, rapid heartbeat, decreased urine output, and confusion or delirium. It is most often the result of a bacterial infection, but it can also be caused by other types of infection. Sepsis can happen to anybody, but it is most often found in older adults, infants, and people with compromised immune systems. Sepsis is treated with fluids, antibiotics, and medicines to control blood pressure and prevent organ damage. (Source:
DISSEMINATED INTRAVASCULAR COAGULATION (DIC): DIC is a rare, life-threatening condition that prevents a person's blood from clotting normally. It may cause excessive clotting (thrombosis) or bleeding (hemorrhage) throughout the body and can lead to shock, organ failure, and death. When the body's natural ability to regulate blood clotting does not function correctly, the platelets (the blood's clotting cells) clump together and clog small blood vessels throughout the body. DIC can be triggered by a health problem that sets the clotting in motion, like types of bacterial infections, severe trauma, some cancers, complications during pregnancy, and some types of snakebites. The severity of bleeding can range from small red dots and bruises under the skin to heavy bleeding from surgical wounds or body openings, like the mouth, nose, rectum, or vagina. Symptoms of organ damage caused by excessive blood clotting may include shortness of breath from lung damage, low urine output from kidney damage, or stroke from damage to the brain. (Source:

? For More Information, Contact:
Christopher Berger, CPO
Clinical Director
East Coast Orthotic & Prosthetic Corp.

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