Zion Harvey Becomes The First Child To Receive Double Hand Transplant

July 29, 2015  |  

Eight-year-old Zion Harvey, the first child to receive a double hand transplant, is happy to finally experience his dream of throwing a football. Most of his life, Zion lived without hands and feet due to a severe infection, sepsis, that made doctors amputate both his hands and feet when he was two years old. Associated Press reports, Zion walked with the help of prosthetics and learned how to eat and write on tablets without hands after that procedure.

Despite being healed from the infection, Zion also had to have a kidney transplant when he was four years old. Because of this, Zion’s mother was nervous about her son receiving the double hand transplant but wanted to take the risk. Zion became a good candidate for the double hand transplant because he was taking the anti-rejection drugs associated with his donated kidney.

Dr. Scott Levin, who is the head of the hand transplant program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, directed a team of 40 people (including 10 surgeons). Four separate teams helped attach the donor’s hands to Zion’s body during the operations. The medical team used steel plates and screws to attached old and new bones, along with reconnecting Zion’s arteries, veins, muscles, tendons and nerves. The operation took over 10 hours to complete.

The donor’s hands came from a little boy who was the same size and approximately the same age that passed away. Dr. Levin said of the donation, “I think the difficulty is finding a family that has the courage to relinquish the arms of a child who just died, and give hope and life and quality of life to a child who’s still living.”

CBS says Zion will have physical rehab in several weeks before he can return home. During a press conference, Zion thanked his family members for supporting him throughout his journey. The Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia said Zion’s family will not be liable for any outstanding fees that are not covered by medical insurance.

The donor’s family chooses to remain anonymous.

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