Zion Harvey Becomes First Child To Receive A Double-Hand Transplant — VIDEO
Meet Zion, an 8-year-old boy from Baltimore who just became the youngest person ever to have a double-hand transplant. When he was two years old, Zion lost both his hands and feet after suffering a life-threatening infection. For years, he lived without hands, until doctors at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia believed they could provide him with his wish: to one day throw a football.
"I wasn't always like this," Zion says in a video released Tuesday by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "When I was two, I had to get my hands cut off, because I was sick."
Earlier in July, surgeons in Philadelphia made good on that wish. A team of surgeons at the Children's Hospital, joined by doctors from Penn Medicine and Shriners Hospital for Children, successfully completed a bilateral hand transplant on Zion. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia announced in a Facebook post on Tuesday that Zion, who received donor hands and forearms, underwent extensive rehabilitation and physical therapy, and it looks like he will be throwing a football around soon.
According to the hospital's video, Zion was chosen to be the first child candidate for a double-hand transplant in 2014. The hospital said only 25 adults in the world have received bilateral hand transplants. "As far as we know, it's never been even attempted in a child," Dr. Benjamin Chang, co-director of the hand transplant program at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, says in the video.
"This is just another hurdle that he jumps," Zion's mother, Pattie, says in the video. "He's so amazing. This isn't the first amazing thing that he's done. ... I don't know many adults who could handle his life on a day-to-day basis."
Zion, who attends school like any normal 8-year-old boy would, added that he's been struggling his whole life with hurtful comments from his peers. "Some of my classmates, they don't mean to say mean things to me, but it just slips out," Zion says.
According to the team of doctors, Zion was placed on the waiting list for donor hands in April. He was able to receive those hands just three months later, which doctors say was truly "remarkable."
To perform the unprecedented hand transplant, the hospital used 12 surgeons, a bevy of rotating nurses, and several anesthesiologists. The doctors and nurses expected to be in the surgery room all night.
The surgery, of course, was highly complex and extensive. To prepare, the surgeons had to label every little structure of the hands, which they would then repair and sew onto the nerves, tendons and blood vessels of Zion's arms. The transplant requires incredible skill, as the surgeons had to sew child's blood vessels, which are much, much smaller than an adult's.
After nearly 12 hours of surgery, Zion had two hands for the first time since he was a toddler. Two weeks after surgery, Zion was ready to feel his hands and move his fingers. He has yet to throw a football, but he will one day soon.
To watch Zion's inspiring journey, here's the full video from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Images: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia/YouTube