- Associated Press - Thursday, October 20, 2016

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) - A Jeffersonville resident who lost extremities after tornadoes ravaged Henryville in 2012 has become the first woman to receive a successful hand transplant in Kentucky.

Health officials announced Wednesday that Louella Aker, 69, is recovering well from a double hand transplant, which occurred Sept. 17 during 17-hour operation at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.

“She is truly a fighter who has continued to grow stronger each day following this surgery,” said Tuna Ozyurekoglu, lead surgeon with the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center. “We look forward to watching her return to her normal activities, as she shows the world how successful transplantation can be.”

Aker was diagnosed with a blood infection in 2012 after helping clean up Henryville, where tornadoes hit in March of that year. Doctors amputated both Aker’s legs below the knee, her left forearm and part of her right hand.

“There are so many things you cannot do without your hands,” Aker stated. “This will change my life and allow me to do the things I miss, like holding my granddaughter’s hand.”

Aker is taking medication to prevent her body from rejecting the transplants. She will undergo rehabilitation after being transferred from the hospital.

“She is tolerating her medications, and to date, has no signs of clinical rejection,” said Dr. Christopher Jones of the University of Louisville and Jewish Hospital.

Aker said she’s extremely grateful to the donor family, who she hasn’t met.

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This story has been corrected to show that Aker has become the first woman to receive a successful hand transplant in Kentucky, not the first woman to receive a successful hand transplant.

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