Thanks to anonymous donor, 8-year-old boy gets two new hands

A little boy from Maryland 'woke up smiling' with his new hands, said his doctor.

Matt Rourke/AP
Double-hand transplant recipient, 8-year-old Zion Harvey, smiles during a news conference Tuesday, at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in Philadelphia. Surgeons said Zion of Baltimore who lost his limbs to a serious infection, has become the youngest patient to receive a double-hand transplant.

Eight-year-old Zion Harvey’s forearms were heavily bandaged but he was flashing big smiles Tuesday as he showed off his new hands.

Zion, who had lost his hands and feet to a serious infection, has become the youngest patient to receive a double-hand transplant.

"He woke up smiling," said L. Scott Levin, who heads the hand transplant program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, according to the Associated Press. "There hasn't been one whimper, one tear, one complaint."

At a hospital news conference, the little boy demonstrated his grip. It was still delicate from the nearly 11-hour operation that took place earlier this month and required the help of a 40-person medical team, using steel plates and screws to attach his old and new bones.

He told reporters that waking up with new hands was "weird at first, but then good.”

Zion, who is from the Baltimore suburb of Owings Mills, Md., contracted sepsis as a toddler, resulting in numerous medical complications and the eventual amputation of both hands and feet. At just 4-years-old, he underwent a kidney transplant, thanks to an organ donation from his mother.

Only several adults in the country have received double-hand or double-arm transplants in the past few years, much less children. But Zion is a bright and precocious child, who has "a maturity that is way beyond his 8 years," Dr. Levin told the AP.

"It was no more of a risk than a kidney transplant," said his mother, Pattie Ray. "So I felt like I was willing to take that risk for him, if he wanted it – to be able to play monkey bars and football."

With the help of leg prosthetics, Zion has become remarkably active, able to walk, run, and jump. He has learned to use his new hands to write, eat, and play video games, and has been attending school. Physicians say he will spend the next several weeks in physical rehab before going home. But they hope he'll now be able to achieve more milestones, like his goals of throwing a football and playing on the monkey bars.

At the news conference were two rows of Zion’s relatives, and he asked them to stand.

"I want to say to you guys, thank you for helping me through this bumpy road," he said.

The donor's family chose to remain anonymous.

This report contains material from The Associated Press.

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