Maryland Boy Makes History as 1st Pediatric Dual Hand Transplant Recipient

PHOTO: Double-hand transplant recipient eight-year-old Zion Harvey smiles during a news conference, July 28, 2015, at The Children?s Hospital of Philadelphia in Philadelphia. PlayMatt Rourke/AP Photo
WATCH Historic Dual Hand Transplant Gives Boy Second Chance at Life

When Zion Harvey was two years old, the Maryland boy developed a serious infection that resulted in the removal of his hands and feet.

On Tuesday, doctors at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia announced that the 8-year-old boy had become the first child in the world to receive a dual hand transplant.

Leading up to the surgery -- which took place earlier this month, but wasn’t revealed until this week -- Zion had been as active as any other child of his age. Fitted with prosthetic legs, he played with blocks and rode on scooters, and he even knew how to use a smartphone.

During the operation, a 40-person medical team, including 12 surgeons, used steel plates and screws to attach the old and new bones. Surgeons then painstakingly reconnected Zion's arteries, veins, muscles, tendons and nerves.

The entire operation took nearly 11 hours.

"He woke up smiling," Dr. L. Scott Levin, who heads the hand transplant program, said Tuesday at a news conference at the hospital. "There hasn't been one whimper, one tear, one complaint."

Zion himself was in attendance at the news conference. His forearms heavily bandaged, he was beaming as he told everyone about his new hands.

During the event, Zion asked the many family members in attendance to stand and be recognized, telling them: “I want to say to you guys, thank you for helping me through this bumpy road.”

He said that, for him, “family means trust hope support and if you fall down they always catch you.”

His mother, Pattie Ray, called her son “amazing.

“For me it is a blessing,” she said. “I have been blessed with a son and an angel. He is my strength.”

Now that Zion has his new hands, he’s most excited to be able to play with his little sister. He’s also hoping for a new dog.

“I'll take care of it,” he told his mother after the press conference. “You don’t have to walk it. I will take care of it.”

Zion, who had previously received a kidney transplant from his mother, had been taking anti-rejection drugs. He will need to continue taking them for life to ensure his body doesn't reject his new hands.

The hand donor's family chose to remain anonymous.

Children's Hospital said it would not hold Zion's family liable for any costs beyond that which may be covered by medical insurance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.