Baltimore boy's double-hand transplant a success, doctors say

A Baltimore boy who became the first youngster in the world to undergo a double-hand transplant two years ago has been recovering well, and doctors said they can finally rule the procedure a success.

Zion Harvey, 10, underwent the surgery in 2015 after his hands were amputated when he was 2-years-old, according to the BBC. Harvey lost his hands and his legs below the knee because of sepsis. Harvey’s kidneys also stopped working. He had a transplant at the age of four after his mother, Pattie Ray, donated a kidney to her son.

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The infection “can change a person’s body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, and prevent the body’s organs from working properly,” according to Kids Health. The infection can “lead to serious complications that affect the kidneys, lungs, brain, and heart, and even cause death.”

Credit: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Harvey had to wait three months for a hand donor because the organs needed to be “the right size, skin tone and blood group compatibility,” according to the BBC.

Harvey is not the first to have the surgery but he is the youngest to undergo the procedure. Some 40 medical employees at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia participated in the hours-long operation to attach the new hands on Harvey.

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“We wanted to really make sure that this was going to work for our patient and work for a lifetime,” Dr. Benjamin Chang, co-director of the hand transplant program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told the BBC.

Harvey’s doctors called the surgery a success and were pleased with how the boy’s brain has communicated with his new hands “despite the absence of hands during a developmental period of rich fine motor development between the ages of two and eight years.”

“His brain is communicating with his hands,” Dr. Scott Levin, lead surgeon, said. “His brain says for his hands to move and they move. And that in and of itself is remarkable.”