A year after doctors at Penn Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia performed the first double hand transplant on Zion Harvey of Baltimore, the now 9-year-old can write his name, throw a football and grab his mother’s hand. The moments are brand new for Zion after he lost his hands and feet to an acute case of staph infection at the age of two.
In an interview with People, Harvey and his mother Pattie Ray share the journey that has allowed Zion to be just like any other kid. “Now I can play soccer and I can play football and I can play all these other sports and they can’t isolate me out anymore,” Zion said. After thanking the doctors for performing the groundbreaking surgery, he thanked the parents of the donor who helped made the surgery a reality. “I just want to write a letter to the parents for giving me their son’s hands because they didn’t have to do that if they didn’t want to.”
On Tuesday (Aug. 23), doctors and researchers released a video showing his progress and praised Zion for his mature manner and unstoppable drive.”He has exceeded our every expectation,” Dr. L. Scott Levin said. “He eats. He writes. He goes to the bathroom. He dresses himself. He plays baseball. He can do pull-ups on a bar.”
His mother Pattie, 27, described the feeling of seeing her son move with his new hands. When it comes to walking, Zion has grown to run and play with his prosthetic legs. “It’s not weird to see him with the hands, it’s just like an old feeling coming back,” the phlebotomist said. “I’ve seen him with hands and I just want to touch them and kiss and hug him.”
With the help of rehab, Zion made “tremendous” progress in eight months. Doctors claim they plan to go back at a later date to remove excess skin from the child’s arms. Extra skin was used to help give space for Zion’s hands to grow. Zion’s mother says the time in the hospital helped build a strong bond, although she’s thrilled he’s able to do things like taking his medication on his own.
After dominating school and sports, Zion wants to help spread awareness about the surgery and speak to other children who are going through a similar situation. “I’m looking at my wheelchair right now and I’m remembering that when I needed it, [it] was always there for me. Now have a right hand and left hand. They can always help me when I fall down. I can get back up. If any kid is watching this and going through a rough time, never give up on what you’re doing. You’ll get there eventually.”
Let the waterworks subside here.