Friends, family devastated after Youngsville woman who received NC’s first bilateral hand transplant dies

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The holidays will be difficult for family and friends of Deb Kelly.

Two years ago, on Thanksgiving day, she became the first person in North Carolina to receive a double hand transplant.

Kelly died last weekend, but her courage and her contribution to medical research live on.
A CBS 17 documentary followed her journey from quadruple amputee to transplant recipient.  

The 14-hour-surgery, at Duke, made history in our state, but what struck people who knew Kelly was her incredible attitude. Despite everything she went through, she was ready to take on every challenge, with a sense of hope and determination.

RELATED: A woman’s journey receiving the first bilateral hand transplant in North Carolina

Kelly’s sister tells CBS 17, that Kelly passed away after a brief and sudden illness. Kelly, who lived in Youngsville, did not have COVID-19.  

Although her death is devastating to everyone who knew her, what doctors learned from the transplant, which was part of a clinical trial, could help other people in similar situations for years to come.

Kelly’s perseverance and her smile have already inspired so many.

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