8-Year-Old is the Youngest Person to Get a Double Hand Transplant

Zion Harvey, an 8-year-old Baltimore boy, who lost his limbs to a serious infection became the youngest patient to receive a double-hand transplant. He received the hands earlier this month at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in an 11-hour operation. A 40-person medical team used steel plates and screws to attach the old and new bones. Surgeons then expertly reconnected arteries, veins, muscles, tendons and nerves. Zion contracted a gangrene infection years ago that also required a kidney transplant, where his mother donated her kidney.

Leg prosthetics have also enabled Zion to walk, run and jump. Patty Ray wanted her son to enjoy a full life so, they looked into getting prosthetics for his hands. Ray told the Baltimore son "It was Zion's decision. If he wanted them, we were going to get them. If he didn't, we weren't." Based on statistics, estimates show only 15 children would donate in a given year who had the right size and color for Zion. His hands will grow with him like any other transplant. They finally got the call that a donor had come through.

At one point in the surgery, Zion's hands turned white--a sign of circulatory problems. So, surgeons had to go back in and fix a blocked artery. Zion's transplant requires a lifetime of immune-suppressing drugs to ensure his body doesn't reject the new limbs. L. Scott Levin, lead surgeon on the procedure said, "I hope personally we can help many more patients like Zion in the future." Zion is now working with occupational therapists several times a day. He is not allowed to move his hands when not in their presence.

Photo: Today

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