As we close out the year, we want to look back and check in with some of our favorite medical subjects of the last 12 months to see how they're faring after they made headlines.
Zion Harvey Get a Double Hand Transplant
Less than a year after undergoing a double hand transplant, Zion Harvey is still winning over his doctors.
The third grader, who is the first child to receive a double hand transplant, is still going through therapy but can already write and hold a fork.
Dr. L. Scott Levin, director of the Hand Transplantation Program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said Zion's irrepressible charm hasn't been changed by the operation and that his prognosis looks good.
"I [was] with him last night and while at a restaurant dinner table...he was able to pick up his bread and butter and eat it," Levin told ABC News. "The point is we’re seeing continued functional improvement."
Levin said Zion's immune system did have some difficulty adjusting to the transplants, but that was expected and doctors were able to recalibrate his immune-system by suppressing his drug regimen.
Levin said Zion is now right handed and doctors are working on having his brain "relearn" how to interact with his hands. This year, Zion was able to write a Christmas wish-list in time for the holidays and even do some arm-wrestling.
"His right hand is dominate...we were arm wrestling last night," said Levin. "His hand grabbed my two fingers and of course I let him win every time...he gripped my fingers and said 1-2-3 go. With all his little might he tried to push [me] over."
Leah Still Goes Into Remission
At just age 5, Leah Still has already shown the world what bravery can look like. The pint-size daughter of former Cincinnati Bengals player Devon Still was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer when she was just 4 years old.
After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, doctors told Still that Leah had gone into remission in March of this year.
"After 296 days of day dreaming about what it would feel like to hear the doctors say my daughter is in remission, I finally know the feeling," he said. "Funny thing is there is really no way of describing it because I never knew this feeling existed. When I look at my daughter all I can do is smile and hug her."
In the months since Leah won the ESPY Jimmy V. Perseverance Award, she has had plenty of fun with her dad, even dressing up as Rapunzel for Halloween. In even better news, routine tests this December found that Leah still has no signs of cancer.
Conjoined Twins Acen and Apio Akello Are Separated
Nearly three months have passed since conjoined twins, Acen and Apio Akello, were separated in a momentous 16-hour operation at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. After a couple of minor follow-up surgeries, the girls are thriving but remain as close as ever, according to chief of pediatric surgery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Dr. Gail Besner.
“They are doing absolutely beautifully,” Besner said. “Each one is doing great – they’re eating, doing physical therapy, starting to catch up on things they didn’t have the opportunity to do in the first 11 months of their life because of their attachment.”
The girls had to have a follow-up surgery to correct congenital defects in their ability to evacuate stool, and then another surgery to close the colostomies that had kept them alive for months. One twin has recovered fully from that procedure, and the other should be recovered within a few weeks, Besner said.
The babies are now able to sit up on their own, and are just beginning to stand. They’re also starting to speak, and love playing with the toys in their room as well as with their mother and the hospital staff.
“We have seasoned nurses who have worked in our unit for 15 or 20 years – each tell me these are their favorite patients they’ve ever taken care of,” Besner said. “Quite often after a really hard day’s work, I go to their room and play with them.”
She said the twins’ mother, Esther Akello, continues to be very optimistic and intends to bring them back to Uganda, where they were born, as soon as she can.
“They’ve been just a real pleasure and honor to take care of,” Besner said. “It is such a pleasure to have been entrusted with their care.”
ABC News' Julie Barzilay contributed to this report.