© 2005 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

One Tuesday morning in March 1990, 19-year-old Shannon Leidig, a freshman music therapy major at Virginia's Shenandoah College and Conservatory of Music, woke up with a burning, throbbing pain in her right hand. The skin felt waxy and was sensitive. Not knowing what to do, she went to the university nurse. "They thought it was carpal tunnel syndrome, possibly a strain caused from playing too much piano or guitar," says Leidig. Her piano teacher thought Leidig was trying to get out of lessons. Doctors thought it might heal itself overnight and applied a splint. Within 24 hours, however, Leidig lost use of the hand. She was scheduled for orthopedic surgery by the week's end.

As Leidig recuperated, the other hand grew tender and red, swelling like a balloon. She began to doubt her sanity. Two weeks later, after another...

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