Skip to content
Health
Link copied to clipboard

Zion Harvey, boy with double hand transplant, goes home

Zion Harvey, the indomitable, adorable 8-year-old who made history with his double hand transplant at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, went home to Baltimore on Wednesday.

Zion Harvey, 8, the world’s first child to receive a double hand transplant.
Zion Harvey, 8, the world’s first child to receive a double hand transplant.Read moreChildren’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Zion Harvey, the indomitable, adorable 8-year-old who made history with his double hand transplant at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, went home to Baltimore on Wednesday.

Until Zion's early-July surgery, no child had ever received a single hand, let alone two, because transplants require lifelong immune suppression.

Zion was deemed uniquely suited because he was already taking antirejection drugs to protect the kidney he received at age 4 from his mother, Pattie Ray.

His unusual medical profile was the result of a life-threatening bloodstream infection at age 2 that required amputation of his hands and feet, and ruined his kidneys.

Although Children's did not make the family or doctors available for interviews Wednesday, it released new photos and video of Zion, whose unassuming precociousness made him a minor celebrity when the surgery was announced July 28.

In the video, Zion is shown using his new hands in music therapy and other activities, his wrists still puffy beneath the bandages. Lead surgeon L. Scott Levin strides into Zion's room and asks him to open his fist. As the fingers slowly unfurl, Levin says, "Whoa, dude!"

Just as in a previous video, Zion is a happy, chattering child who seems remarkably unfazed by his physical traumas and the fuss over him.

"The challenges facing Zion are new, but his determination should overcome them," said Ray. "This is just one more hurdle he's ready to jump."

The transplant - which required two surgical teams for the donor hands and two teams for Zion - involved reattaching the forearm bones, then the arteries and veins, then muscles, tendons, nerves, and skin.

Following that 11-hour surgical tour de force, Zion spent a week in intensive care, then moved to a medical unit and, finally, to a rehabilitation department. In daily session with therapists, he received physical and occupational rehabilitation to learn to use his hands.

He will continue outpatient therapy for as long as two years, as his nerves slowly regenerate. Levin's team will follow Zion, at first monthly and then annually, for the rest of his life.

215-854-2720 @repopter

Published