- Zion Hardey had both his hands and legs amputated at the age of two due to sepsis.
- He also had a renal transplant when he was 4 and was on immuno suppressant drugs.
- After assessment doctors performed a double hand transplant two years ago. Zion's body has adapted to the transplant and now he is able to use his hands like any other child of his age.
Two years back, a double hand transplant was done in ten-year-old Zion Harvey and now he is able to use both his hands without any difficulty.
Zion Harvey went through a surgery to get both hands transplanted in July 2015 and a new report published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health
reveals the first official medical update on the same.
‘World’s first bilateral hand and forearm transplantation in Zion Harvey has been declared a success, after two years of close monitoring.’
The Reason For the Transplant
Zion Harvey was born with hands but when he was two, he had sepsis, and the doctors had to amputate them. Also, his legs below the knee were amputated. As his kidneys also failed to function he had a kidney transplant at age 4.
He was on anti-rejection medications after the kidney transplant and was on close assessment for 18 months. The medical team was confident a double-hand transplant could benefit him as he was on medications after kidney transplant which did not cause any adverse effect and so expected the same for his hands.
Double Hand Transplantation
After thorough assessment, Zion was on the wait list and found a donor after 3 months. There are various surgical as well as non-surgical components that need to be considered before a double hand transplant.
Before the surgery, Zion had to undergo extensive medical screenings and evaluations. Sepsis at an early age and renal transplant which was successful were factors that cornered doctors to perform the hand 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.
Before the Surgery And Now
The surgery was scheduled on July 2015 and was carried out for 10 hours by a team of 40 medical staff, including 10 surgeons.
Dr Benjamin Chang, co-director of the hand transplant programme at the hospital, recalls: "We wanted to really make sure that this was going to work for our patient and work for a lifetime."
The hands and forearms from the donor were attached by connecting bone, blood vessels, nerves, muscles, tendons and skin. One of the biggest challenges was was connecting all the tiny blood vessels that would keep the hands alive.
Zion was able to move his fingers using the ligaments from his remaining limbs few days after the surgery. Doctors altered his medications few times within a year of his transplant as they felt that there were signs of rejection.
Regular visits to the psychologist and a social worker were a part of his speedy recovery. Scans have shown the progress as his brain is now adapting to the new hands, developing pathways to control the movements and feel the sensations.
"Despite the absence of hands during a developmental period of rich fine motor development between the ages of two and eight years his brain responds to the signals to his hands," doctors exclaimed.
Dr Sandra Amaral, a member of the team that treated Zion said 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," said Dr Amaral.
The treatment was successful but researchers caution that more study is needed before hand transplant becomes a widely accepted procedure.