Leslie Sullivent Donated Her Hand for Transplant

10:48 PM, Jul 22, 2011   |    comments
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More than four months has passed since the deaths of Warner Robins sisters, Bridget and Leslie Sullivent.

The two girls died after a car accident on Highway 96.

After the community grieved the loss, the story appeared to be over. As it turns out, it isn't.

In fact, Leslie Sullivent's death changed a life and has the potential to help heal wounded soldiers.

Melva Sullivent says it would come as no surprise to 17-year-old Leslie Sullivent's friends that she registered as an organ donor when she got her license.

Leslie talked about it with her mom last winter. Melva said, "She was on her bed doing homework and the subject came up. She said, 'Yeah, Mama, if I can help someone I am going to.'"

A few months later that opportunity came.

11-year old Bridget Sullivent died instantly in a car accident March 10th, but Leslie held on a day longer. It was long enough for Lifelink, an organ and tissue recovery organization, to ask her parents about donation.

Melva said, "Immediately we said 'yes,' because instantly, the night in her bedroom came right back to my mind, and I knew she was serious about it."

They offered Leslie's heart, kidneys, bone tissue, lungs and more. Then they say Lifelink made an unusual request.

Melva said, "There was an opportunity they wanted to talk to us about, that Leslie could possibly donate a hand."

Again, the Sullivents said yes.

Two weeks later, the Sullivents say they learned who received Leslie's hand. That was an unusual occurrence for organ donors because of medical privacy laws.

James Sullivent said, "After the transplant happened, we received a call that night, saying Emory University was going to release news on the recipient that night or the next morning." He went on to say, "They didn't want us to be shocked."

March 28th in Atlanta, Emory doctors announced the first hand transplant in Georgia. They said they hope to use the medical technology on military men and women who lose limbs in combat. Emory partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs to become one of the premier transplant centers in the country. The university received a grant for transplants from the Department of Defense.

21-year-old Linda Lu from Oviedo, Florida, needed a hand after losing hers to a rare childhood illness. At the March press conference, Lu said, "I thought I was dreaming honesltly."

Lu recieved the transplant March 12th during a 19 hour surgery. That was the day after Leslie died.

James Sullivent said, "We got to watch the news that the girl recieved it at the same time as everybody else."

Melva said she recognized her daughter's hand at first glance. She said, "Just knowing it's Leslies hand, you can see her fingers and finger nails."

Lu said told reporters it was her goal to learn to type.

Melva says she's in luck. Leslie liked typing too.

Melva said, "She was very good at technology and typing. So, that hand will be right at home on the keyboard."

The Sullivents say they have sent letters to Lu, wanting to meet her. So far, Lu has not contacted them.

A spokeswoman for Lifelink, Kaysha Cranon, confirmed that Leslie Sullivent donated organs. Those helped more than 25 people, according to a letter sent to the Sullivents by Lifelink. Cranon would not confirm or deny that Lu was the recipient, saying revealing that information would violate HIPAA laws.

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