Ten-year-old Zion Harvey from the US who underwent a double hand transplant two years back — a first in a child — can not only write, feed and dress today but is able to play baseball using both hands.
World’s first bilateral hand and forearm transplantation in Harvey that heralded a revolution in transplant medicine, has been declared a success, scientists confirmed in notes that have appeared in the prestigious journal The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health.
In July 2015, surgeons at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) successfully transplanted donor hands and forearms on eight-year-old Harvey who, several years earlier, had undergone amputation of his hands and feet and a kidney transplant following a serious infection.
The surgery lasted 10 hours and 40 minutes.
Within days of the surgery, the child was able to move his fingers. By six months, Harvey could move the transplanted hand muscles and, soon after, was able to use scissors and crayons.
Prior to the surgery, Harvey had told his doctors that his ambition was to swing a baseball bat one day.
Harvey has now fulfilled his dream of swinging a baseball bat, using both hands.
“Here’s the piece of my life that was missing. Now it’s here, my life is complete,” Harvey was quoted as saying in a BBC report on Wednesday.
Medical tests showed that although his hands came from a donor, his brain has accepted them as his own.
Led by L Scott Levin, Chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Penn Medicine and Director of the Hand Transplantation Programme at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), a 40-member multi-disciplinary team of physicians, nurses and other staff participated in the operation.
During the surgery, the hands and forearms from the donor were attached by connecting bone, blood vessels, nerves, muscles, tendons and skin.
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, associate chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery at Penn Medicine in an earlier report.
Post-surgery, Harvey, a happy and outgoing child, figured out ways to perform most of the activities other kids his age can do.
Harvey received prosthetics for his feet and is able to walk, run and jump with complete independence.
Dr Sandra Amaral, a member of the team treating Harvey at the CHOP, told BBC that Harvey continues to make significant progress.
“He is able to swing a bat with much more co-ordination, and he can write his name quite clearly,” Dr Amaral was quoted as saying.