The world’s first child to receive a double hand transplant – a 10-year-old boy from the US – is now able to write, dress and even play baseball, say doctors, declaring the pioneering surgery a success. Zion Harvey was two-years-old when he had sepsis, a life-threatening infection. Doctors had to removed both his hands at the wrist, and his legs below the knee. His kidneys had also failed.
At the age of four, after two years of dialysis, Harvey had a kidney transplant using a kidney donated by his mother. He was given new hands when he was eight-years-old, and Harvey can now write, feed and dress himself, as well as grip a bat. His brain has accepted the donor hands as his own, doctors said.
“He is able to swing a bat with much more co-ordination, and he can write his name quite clearly,” Sandra Amaral, a member of the team treating Harvey at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) told the ‘BBC’.
There is evidence that his brain had rewired to take account of his new hands, Amaral told the BBC.Although the first ever double-hand transplant was done in 1998, Harvey became the youngest to ever undergo the procedure in 2015. Double hand transplantation is a complex procedure involving many surgical and non-surgical components. First, the potential recipient must undergo extensive medical screenings and evaluations before surgery.
In this case, the patient’s previous medical condition, following sepsis at an early age, factored into the decision to perform the transplant. “Zion’s kidney transplant following his infection made him a candidate for transplant because he was already taking anti-rejection medication,” said Benjamin Chang, co-director of CHOP’s Hand Transplant Programme as well as associate chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery at Penn Medicine. A team of 40 medical staff, including 10 surgeons, operated through the night and into the early hours of the morning to fit the new hands. Two years on, Harvey is doing well.