Brave equestrian who had three limbs amputated due to rare condition gets back in the saddle for the first time

Jessica Thoma rides her horse sugar after her illness.

This is the inspiring moment an equestrian got back into the saddle for the first time after having three of her limbs AMPUTATED.

Jessica Thoma, 25, was forced to have both legs amputated below the knee and her left arm amputated below the elbow after she developed an autoimmune disorder.

The team lead had developed polyarteritis nodosa (PAN), a condition which causes the inflammation of the body’s arteries, preventing them passing oxygen to organ systems.

Jessica, of Crossville, Tennessee, first developed an unusual a rash all over her body in February 2017 which gradually worsened.

Jessica Thoma rides her horse sugar after her illness.

The keen horse rider began to develop pain in her legs and thigh and was forced to quit her job in October, as her energy levels had become so low.

Although doctors believed Jessica was suffering from an autoimmune disease, they could not pinpoint what was causing her symptoms, which included an enlarged liver and spleen.

On December 3, Jessica began to experience a tingling in her hip and her feet began to change in temperature, dramatically altering between hot and cold.

Jessica was rushed by ambulance to her local hospital before being transferred to TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, where she was intubated and placed into an induced coma.

When she awoke on December 5, she noticed her feet and fingers were black and purple, as the tissues of her limbs were slowly dying.

Jessica and her fiance Brandon in Nashville Centennial Medical Center.

A biopsy of Jessica’s thigh allowed doctors to diagnosis her with PAN and start her on a strong course of steroids and a drug called Cytoxan, a powerful immunosuppressant used in chemotherapy.

Although she began to improve, the tissues in her lower legs and left arm had been damaged beyond repair and doctors were forced to amputate them on January 3.

As a result of the medications, Jessica also lost all of her hair.

Jessica said: “My doctors were desperately trying to figure out what was going wrong.

“They were surprised I was alive.

“They eventually biopsied the skin on my hip and thigh, and they were able to diagnose me with PAN.

“They immediately put me on a heavy dose of steroids and a chemotherapy drug Cytoxin.

“Although it helped halt my symptoms, after two weeks my doctors realized I wasn’t getting better.

“My nerves in my limbs were dead, my skin was dead, my muscles were dead.

Jessica Thoma before her illness.

“They originally thought I would just lose some toes and fingers but eventually, they decided I they needed to amputate my legs from below the knee and my arm from below the elbow.”

“Realizing I was going to be a triple amputee was devastating.

“I was so low, I begged my doctor to put me on antidepressants to cope.

Before her illness, Jessica rode her horses Albert, 15, and Sugar, 20, five times a week on her family’s 17-acre farm.

Jessica said: “But in the aftermath of her surgeries, Jessica found it hard to cope with her new body and worried it would impact her passion.

“You think you’re doing okay but then you have these moments where you think, ‘So much of me is gone.’

“Before this happened to me I would ride four or five times a week.

“Riding is such an important part of my life, I was worried about how I would ever ride my horses again.”

Jessica Thoma pictured after her amputations.

After her six-month ordeal, Jessica was discharged from hospital on April 6, and just two weeks later she was back in Sugar’s saddle for the first time.

“When I came home I was just so determined to ride again. Riding is such an important part of my life and I knew it would help me just to try.

“I knew I had to get back on Sugar.

“Two weeks after I got home, I asked my family to help me. They got me up there and I rode her for the first time.

“It felt good but it did make me realize how much different this will be now and there’s a sadness to that.”

“This past weekend I was visiting an equestrian riding clinic in Texas to find ways to make riding easier for me, which will involve Velcro to make me more secure and a better handle to steering.”

Jessica Thoma lost two limbs and her arm after developing an autoimmune condition.

The horse enthusiast is still coming to terms with her life as an amputee but hopes to receive her prosthetics this summer.

Although it will be a long road, Jessica said she couldn’t have done it without her navy veteran fiancé Brandon Disopell, 25, who she hopes to marry next year.

Jessica said: “I still am dealing with depression but I’d never have been able to get through this without my fiancé. He’s been an incredible support to me during this difficult time.

“I’ve been fitted for my prosthetics which should be here by the end of the summer. I’m looking forward to getting a little bit of independence back.

“I’m looking forward to moving on from this awful time.”


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