PHILADELPHIA – Little Zion Harvey was all smiles as he was wheeled out of the operating room as the world’s first child ever to receive a successful double hand transplant.
The surgical first, performed at the Philadelphia’s Children’s Hospital earlier this month, was a dream come true for the eight-year-old boy, reports NBC.
“My favorite thing [will be to] wait for her to run into my hands as I pick her up and spin her around,” said Zion as his mother stood beside him, overcome with emotion. She commented on the surgery, saying:
“When I saw Zion’s hands for the first time after the operation I just felt like he was being reborn. I see my son in the light I haven’t seen him in five years. It was like having a newborn. It was a very joyous moment for me. I was happy for him.”
Zion checking out his new hands for the first time
Zion lost both hands and feet when he was just a toddler to a life-threatening bacterial infection. Little Zion has been able to lead a happy child’s life using prosthetics, but he always wished he could have a pair of hands, says Dr. L. Scott Levin, chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery at Penn Medicine and director of the hand transplantation program at Children’s Hospital.
When Levin first met the boy and asked him why he wanted a pair of hands, he replied saying he wanted to swing on the monkey bars. “That’s a pretty logical answer for an 8-year-old,” Levin said. “And a pretty profound statement to me.”
Zion and his mother (right) after the surgery
Though the surgery is not the first-ever double hand transplant, it is the first to be performed on a child. Because children have smaller bones and still have a lot of growing to do, the surgery is much more difficult and requires more precise action.
“The issue with children is they have areas of bone called growth plates,” Levin explained.
“We had to be very careful when we attached the donor hands to Zion that we did not violate or injure the growth plates because we want his hands to grow and lengthen.”
But surgeons were up to the challenge, performing with excellence on a boy that they say was a “remarkable patient.”
“I’ve never seen a tear, never an untoward face, never a complaint,” Levin said. “He’s always positive. And that, in and of itself, is remarkable.”
And Zion and his family couldn’t be happier, both with the boy’s new hands and the possibilities the successful surgery is opening for other children like Zion.