Mom donates late daughter’s hands; first hand donation for transplant in MI

Posted at 9:40 AM, Jan 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-10 09:41:31-05

KENT CITY, Mich. -- Imagine how tough it would be to lose your hands, unable to hold your children, type and e-mail, or even wave goodbye. Thanks to Gift of Life Michigan, Loella Aker, who lost the sense of touch, is finally feeling again.

A few months ago, Aker received a new set of hands in the first-ever hand donation for transplant in Michigan.

Akers has hands thanks to Debra Wyant and her daughter, Shayna Sturtevant. In September, Sturtevant came down with an ear infection. Four days later, her mother took her into the emergency room. Sturtevant never came home, ultimately passing away from a stroke.

"I think God took her out of mercy and to help these other people," Wyant said.

Sturtevant's favorite color was purple, she loved Batman, and most importantly, she was an organ donor. Since Sturtevant's passing, her organs have helped save three lives and change another. Her liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, and hands were all donated for transplant with the help of Gift of Life Michigan.

Normally, organ recipients and donor families don't find out about each other right away, but Wyant happened upon an article in the Louisville, Ky., Courier Journal a few months ago and found the woman who received her daughter's hands.

Wyant believes Loella Aker, a grandmother in Indiana, is the perfect recipient for her daughter's sweet touch.

"Honestly, it was almost like Shayna picked her," Wyant said.

"For me, it is the miracle of humanity and medicine," said Bruce Nicely, chief clinical officer at Gift of Life Michigan. "This is huge, the ability to transplant limbs (...) is emerging technology."

Wyant is hoping she can meet Aker and hold her late daughter's hands. She plans to send a letter to Aker, but she must first send it to Gift of Life Michigan. They will forward it to Aker.

Wyant says she would like to eventually meet everyone who received her daughter's organs.

According to the Courier Journal, Aker lost her hands to a blood infection she contracted after working to help clean up debris from a tornado. Now, thanks to Sturtevant and Gift of Life Michigan, she has a new set of hands.

More than 123,000 people are waiting for organs in the U.S, if you would like to join the donor registry, click here.  Gift of Life does not disclose or confirm the identity of the recipient because of federal privacy laws.