Zion Harvey Update: World’s first child double hand transplant recipient does push ups (VIDEO)
It’s an uplifting story of perseverance mixed with a dose of medical wonder that can’t help but bring a smile to your face.
Last July, then 8-year-old Zion Harvey became the world’s first child to receive a double hand transplant at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Though the operation was an initial success, Harvey, who lost both his hands and feet at the age of 2 following a life-threatening infection, had a long road to recovery. A year later, and despite the occasional health hiccup and exhaustive rehab sessions, Harvey’s new hands have allowed him a newfound degree of freedom.
“He’s writing. He can feed himself. He’s learning how to button — I saw him zip up his zipper today,” said Dr. L. Scott Levin, who helped lead the team of 12 surgeons who completed the more than 12-hour operation, in a video update of Zion’s story released by the hospital. “So he’s gaining independence. Which is the entire reason why we do it.”
Harvey is now also able to play board games, throw out the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game, and even do pushups with the aid of his new hands, as seen above. And because the surgeons made sure to keep his growth plates — cartilage structures found at the end of young people’s long bones — intact, the hands should grow along with him as he ages.
While Harvey will need to remain on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life, having already received a donated kidney from his mom at the age of four, his indomitable spirit and maturity has astounded both his doctors and family. For his part, Harvey is proudly insistent that the hands don’t define him, grateful as he is for them.
“The only thing that’s different is that instead of having no hands, I have two hands, and everything else is the same. My friends haven’t changed. They haven’t treated me any different,” he said. “I’m still a kid. I’m still the same kid that everyone knew with no hands.”