At two-years-old, Zion Harvey contracted a life-threatening infection that lead to both his hands and feet being amputated. Following the infection, after going through two years of dialysis, Zion received a Kidney transplant, donated by his mother.
Despite all this Harvey is probably the happiest, most appreciative and eloquent 8-year-old you could ever meet. He has now made history by becoming the first person in the world to receive a double hand transplant.
Zion’s case was followed closely by the medical team at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to see if he would be an appropriate candidate for the groundbreaking surgery.
“So, when I get these hands, I will be proud of what hands I get, and if it gets messed up, I don’t care, because I have my family!”
What made Zion such a great candidate was due to the years of anti-rejection medication he has already been on to support his kidney transplant. This made the option of transplant all that more reasonable and helped move the surgery forward.
The incredible surgery however, does not come without huge risks and ramifications.
“Our concerns about doing these hand transplants in anybody, is that once you do it, the patient has to stay on lifelong medication so they don’t reject, and those medications increase the risk of infection, and also increases your risk of having cancer at some stage in life.” said Benjamin Change, MD Co-Director Hand Transplantation Program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“And so for a child that’s a very difficult decision”
When one of the surgeons asked Zion why he wanted the surgery and why he wanted hands he replied in the most beautiful way; “I want to swing on the monkey bars.”
The incredible strength that Zion shows on a daily basis was exactly why he was the perfect candidate for this harrowing surgery.
So, in early July, 40 surgeons, including ten hand specialists, worked over 11 hours to deliver Zion his dream. The transplant is different from prosthetics because the hands that Zion receives will grow with him as he does – just like any other child.
“I was nervous and anxious during his surgery,” says Ray, Zion’s Mother. “When they told me the surgery was successful, I breathed a sigh of relief. I could breathe again.”
Zion’s rehabilitation will be a long and drawn out process, with daily exercises and monitoring needed to ensure his surgery has the highest chance of long-term success.
When Zion was asked what he was most looking forward to doing with his new hands, he responded; “Pick up my little sister from daycare, and wait for her to run in to my hands and I pick her up and spin her around.”
Watch his incredible journey here.