An 8-year-old boy who lost his hands and feet to a serious infection has become the youngest patient to receive a double-hand transplant, surgeons say. Zion Harvey's forearms were heavily bandaged but his hands were visible as he flashed some big smiles yesterday at a hospital news conference. He demonstrated his still-delicate grip and described waking up with new hands as "weird at first, but then good." The boy received the transplant earlier this month at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, though doctors did not publicly disclose the nearly 11-hour operation until this week. A 40-person medical team used steel plates and screws to attach the old and new bones. Surgeons then painstakingly reconnected Zion's arteries, veins, muscles, tendons, and nerves.
"He woke up smiling," says Dr. L. Scott Levin, who heads the hand transplant program. "There hasn't been one whimper, one tear, one complaint." Zion contracted sepsis as a toddler. The resulting multiple-organ failure forced the amputation of his hands and feet; by age 4, he needed a kidney transplant, receiving the organ from his mother. Leg prosthetics have allowed Zion to be very active, including walking, running, and jumping. He learned to use his forearms to write and eat and has been attending school. Physicians hope he'll now be able to achieve more milestones, including his goals of throwing a football and playing on the monkey bars. (Last month, a Texas hospital made history with a transplant.)