First Child’s Double Hand Transplant Success
Out of the many things we take for granted, using our hands might. It’s one thing to lose the use of them over time to various conditions like arthritis, but what about having to have them amputated at a young age?
That’s what happened to eight-year-old Zion Harvey from Baltimore, Maryland, in the US. When Zion was just two years old, he contracted an infection in his limbs. This infection turned into gangrene and the doctors had no choice but to amputate his hands and feet.
The infection also affected his kidneys, and after spending two years on dialysis, Zion needed a kidney transplant. His mum, Pattie Ray gave him one of her kidneys, and the boy spent the next few years learning to write, eat, and play using only his forearms.
But Pattie wanted more for her son, as any mother would. Zion already had prosthetics for his legs, and she started looking into something similar for his hands.
Out of all the prosthetics they tried, there were none that Pattie and Zion were satisfied with, but then a doctor gave them a serious option to consider: hand transplants.
It was up to Zion: if he wanted to go for it, they would go for it. If not, they wouldn’t. But, of course, the courageous boy was willing to give it a go.
However, before the operation could go ahead, Dr L Scott Levin – the lead surgeon in Zion’s operation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) – would have to find a suitable donor. He explained that the difficult part is trying to find a family with the courage to give the arms of their loved one to improve the life of another child.
“He is so amazing,” said Pattie about her son, before the operation. “I don’t know many adults that can handle half of his life on a day-to-day basis.”
When the time came, Dr Levin led a team of 40, divided into four teams – two focusing on the hands, and two focusing on Zion. Using steel plates and screws to graft the old bone onto the new, the team worked for around 11 hours to give the boy his new hands.
And when it was all over, Dr Levin said that Zion woke up smiling. “There hasn’t been one whimper, one tear, one complaint,” he said, adding that he hoped he and his team would be able to help more patients like Zion in the future.
After seeing his new hands, Pattie said that she was able to see her son in a way she hadn’t in almost six years, and it was like her son had been reborn. “It was a very joyous moment for me,” she said. “I was happy for him.”
Zion will now be able to fulfil his dream of one day throwing a football or swinging from the monkey bars in the playground. And to the surgical team that made all this happen for him, Zion had this to say: “I just want to say thank you, guys, for helping me down this bumpy road.”
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