Baltimore Boy World’s First To Receive Successful Double Hand Transplant

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In 2015, a Baltimore boy made history as the first child to successfully receive a double hand transplant.

Now, 10-year-old Zion can use his new hands to read and writing, make his lunch and grip a baseball bat.

He was able to grip a baseball bat, which was something he wanted to do, by about a year, but now he can do it more powerfully with more coordinated motion between the right and the left hand,” said Dr. Sandra Amaral, medical director of the hand transplant program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who was partly responsible for Zion’s care.

“Most of his functional outcomes or progress have been really related to doing things more efficiently and effectively,” she said. “A few new things that he can do: zip his pants, rip open a granola bar by himself and manipulate it to eat it.”

Dr. L. Scott Levin, chair of the department of orthopaedic surgery at Penn Medicine and surgical director of the hand transplantation program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who led the surgery says Zion can go to the bathroom without any help,.

He really has gained tremendous independence, which is what we all strive for in our personal lives,” Levin said. “We have restored, even in this little boy, a sense of personal dignity.”

Levin, Amaral and 28 other doctors and researchers co-authored a paper detailing Zion’s surgery and recovery, published in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health this week.

Even though Zion has not achieved any new significant milestones since the one-year anniversary of his surgery, the authors of the paper wanted to document in the scientific literature that his surgery was a success.

Zion’s hands and feet had to be amputated when he was 2 years old due to a life-threatening sepsis infection that resulted in the failure of multiple organs.

At 8, he underwent a 10-hour surgery in which the hands of a donor were surgically connected to his arms and became his own.

This isn’t the first amazing thing that he’s done. He’s been doing amazing things since he’s been sick. I don’t know many adults that can handle half of his life on a day-to-day basis,” Pattie Ray, Zion’s mother, said in 2015 before his surgery.

Fast-forward to about 18 months later, and “for our case report, he was actually able to write out his name for me to provide photo release consent,” Amaral said of the new paper.

The paper says that hand transplantation in a child can be surgically, medically and functionally successful under certain circumstances — and even life-changing for a family, Levin noted.

There’s one moment immediately after Zion’s surgery that Levin will always remember. He told CNN

I spoke to Zion’s mom, Pattie Ray, and I said, ‘Your little boy has two new hands,’ and she just started to hug me and got teary-eyed,”

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