LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – A Jeffersonville Indiana woman is now the first female hand transplant recipient in the Bluegrass State.
69-year-old Louella Aker received an infection while helping with cleanup in Henryville, Indiana after the March 2012 EF4 Tornado tore through the town.
Joe Gilene, President of Jewish Hospital said, “Being a hand transplant recipient requires a tremendous amount of commitment and bravery and clearly bravery is certainly an understatement.”
Aker lost both hands and legs below the knee. Wednesday she was able to address a crowd in the lobby of Frazier Rehab in downtown Louisville, but to get to this point, you have to know what she went through.
The EF-4 tornado that ripped through Henryville back in 2012 has remnants that can still be felt on Wednesday.
Aker lived there for almost 30 years, so it was second nature to go back and help.
But Aker somehow got an infection while helping with tornado cleanup.
All four limbs had to be amputated, at one time she faced only a ten percent chance of survival.
William Smith, Aker's son tells us, “A lot of people have said why you and her attitude is why not me, she is absolutely strong enough and she knows.” But the determination to be in her grandchildren's life was too much for the infection.
Aker was placed on the organ donor registry in 2015 and someone answered the call to help with her double hand transplant.
Aker states, “No matter what they felt, no matter what was going on, that they knew that was what they had to do." The 17-hour procedure took place last month on September 17.
This process is another fight and victory she can add to belt, as Aker’s son Thomas Smith explains his mother’s will to live, “You can ask her what happens if it rejects it, she says no it's not going to be me and it's just so encouraging to see that.”
Aker was diagnosed with Lupus in the late 90's and Breast Cancer in 2008. But the real hero is her mystery donor who was able to make this procedure possible, Aker adds, “I couldn't love them anymore.”
Aker says her giving is far from over, WHAS11 has learned Aker plans to give her body to the medical community once she passes away for more research.
A medical rarity that will soon use the power of touch as the ultimate sign of healing.
Aker is still in Louisville as she has at least another month of physical therapy but doctors are hopeful she can go back to Jeffersonville to be home for the holidays.