Zion Harvey, age eight, underwent a transplant procedure that gave him two new hands earlier this month at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia—though the hospital did not disclose the operation until this week.
Zion lost his hands and feet as a toddler; it was the result of a severe sepsis infection that caused multiple-organ failure. At age four, he needed a kidney transplant which he received from his mother. The new kidney actually made him a good candidate for the hand transplant procedure, as it would require a lifetime of immune-suppressant drugs he was already taking. At a hospital news conference on Tuesday, Zion demonstrated his still-delicate grip and was quite upbeat. He described waking up with new hands as “weird, but good”.
Prior to the surgery, Zion had worn leg and hand prosthetics. He had also learned how to use his forearms to write, eat, and play videogames.
This is not the first double-hand, or even double-arm, transplant to have been performed in the U.S., but the hospital believes Zion to be the youngest recipient to date. The donor’s family has chosen to remain anonymous.
The 11-hour operation was performed by a 40-person medical team. Steel plates and screws were employed to secure the bones of the donated hands to Zion’s forearm. Surgeons then had to carefully connect Zion’s arteries, veins, muscles, tendons, and nerves to the new limbs. While a complex and meticulous surgery, the operation itself was no more dangerous than the kidney transplant Zion and his mother had already undergone.
Zion’s doctors say that it will take several weeks of physical rehabilitation before he can return home. Among Zion’s goals, now that he has his new hands, are to throw a football and to play on the monkey bars.
Source for Today’s Article:
Matheson, K., “Zion Harvey, Boy Who Lost Hands to Infection, Gets Double-hand Transplant,” Washington Times, July 29, 2015; http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jul/29/zion-harvey-boy-who-lost-hands-infection-gets-doub/.