In 2015, Zion Harvey became the first child to receive a double hand transplant after contracting a threatening infection. However, 18 months later, the eight-year-old boy’s progress has been spectacular, being able to swing a baseball bat and throw a ball.
The Baltimore native’s medical team recently published notes on his progress after his almost 11-hour bilateral surgery. The doctors have said that his ability to control both of his hands provide “proof-of-principle” that hand surgeries in children can be successful and the results have exceeded the pre-operation expectations.
“The child had exceeded his previous adapted abilities,” the report says. “He is able to write and feed, toilet, and dress himself.”
A few days after the surgery was completed, Harvey was able to begin moving the fingers on his new hands. As time progressed and with occupational therapy, he’s been able to do things such as use video game controllers, use scissors, crayons, and swing a baseball bat. One of his personal goals for the future is being able to climb the monkey bars.
While the results thus far have been positive, Harvey will have to continue to take medicine for the rest of his life in order to avoid infection. There is also no guarantee his body will not reject his new hands.
But doctors say one of the most promising things they’ve seen during the recovery period is how well Zion’s brain has responded “despite the absence of hands during a developmental period of rich fine motor development between the ages of two and eight years.”