ANN ARBOR, MI— Gift of Life Michigan has helped a 21-year-old Norton Shores woman become the first in the state to donate her hands to another person.
Shayna Sturtevant also donated organs that saved the lives of three people after she died Sept. 14 of a brain abscess stemming from an ear infection. She was a registered organ, eye and tissue donor, and her family was told she was a match for a patient needing hands. The hand donation required special permission, which was granted by her parents. The recovery procedure took place at Gift of Life’s Ann Arbor surgical center.
“Shayna was such a giving person that I knew she would want to help someone who needed hands,” her mother, Debra Wyant, said. “I can’t imagine what life would be like without the ability to touch or hold or do things for yourself. Ultimately, saying yes to that was pretty easy. I hope her recipient is living a better life with my angel’s gifts.”
The recipient’s transplant was successful. Privacy laws prevent Gift of Life from disclosing details about the recipient and where the transplant was performed.
“This may not be ‘life-saving’ by definition, but if you can imagine life without your hands it must be incredibly life-altering,” said Dorrie Dils, CEO of Gift of Life, the state’s federally designated organ and tissue donation program. “We are extremely grateful that Shayna’s family recognized this truly special gift. We hope they find comfort knowing she was a hero to others. And we wish for the continued recovery of all of Shayna’s recipients.”
In addition to her hands, Shayna donated her kidneys, lungs, pancreas and liver.
Hand donation and transplantation is a relatively new procedure in the United States. It involves the complicated, time-consuming transplantation of skin, bone, muscles, blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. Since 1999, only 30 people have received hand transplants in the United States; 18 single-hand transplants and 12 double-hand transplants, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.
Gift of Life works with transplant centers to try, as best as possible, to match the potential recipient’s hand size and skin tone with the donor’s.
“This is one more example of the advances being made in medicine,” Dils said. “But the foundation for the advances is the selflessness of donors and their families to say yes to helping and saving others.”
Debra Wyant writes a letter to the recipient of her daughter’s hands. Oliver is Shayna Sturtevant’s son.
The proud family of hand donor, Shayna Sturtevant. Left: Shayna’s fiance, Andy Steinhauer of Norton Shores, son Oliver, mother Debra Wyant.
- Anyone can join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, regardless of age or health history. To join or to learn more, go to GiftOfLifeMichigan.org or call 866.500.5801.