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EDUCATION with Student News

Triple amputee to graduate from medical school

Story Highlights

• Kellie Lim lost both legs and one arm to bacterial meningitis at age 8
• She performs most procedures with one arm
• Lim will begin residency at UCLA Medical Center
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LOS ANGELES, California -- A woman who lost both legs and an arm as a child is poised to become a doctor for children.

Kellie Lim, who became a triple amputee at age 8 because of bacterial meningitis, will graduate from UCLA's medical school on Friday, and she plans to focus on childhood allergies and infectious disease.

The Michigan native, 26, does not use a prosthetic arm and manages to perform most medical procedures -- including giving injections and taking blood -- with one arm. She walks on prosthetic legs.

"I think for any training physician it will be difficult to do any kind of medical procedure," she told CNN. "It's not an innate ability. I think I definitely need a lot more practice and anyone in my position as a medical student and as a starting intern needs more practice."

Lim said being sick as a child helps her be more empathetic.

Raised by a blind mother in suburban Detroit, Lim went through years of wheelchairs and painful therapy after toxic shock from the meningitis claimed her limbs and three fingertips on her remaining hand.

When she was fitted with a prosthetic right hand at 8 years old she didn't have much use for it after years of compensating by learning to use her left hand.

"I used it as a paper weight to hold down my papers instead," she said.

Lim recently saw her childhood medical file, and learned that doctors had given her a 15 percent chance of survival.

"I hate failing," she said. "It's one of those things that's so ingrained in me."

Lim's teachers and fellow students said she exudes a calm that makes them and her patients forget her physical circumstances.

"She has an aura of competence about her that you don't worry," said Dr. Elijah Wasson, one of Lim's supervisors. "At first you notice her hand is not there. But after about five minutes, she is so comfortable and so competent that you take her at face value."

Although no adult patient has ever expressed shock or concern when they realize she will be treating them, a few younger patients have been unable to restrain themselves.

"Younger patients - ages 3 or 4 - would see me and look frightfully at me and they would pull away from me," she said. "I usually describe myself [as if] it's like their hand, it just looks different."

Lim will begin a residency program at the UCLA Medical Center.

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Kellie Lim, right, will graduate from UCLA's medical school on Friday.

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