This 9-Year-Old’s Double Hand Transplant Story Will Wow You

Zion Harvey plays baseball, hand and with his mother.
NBC Nightly News checks in with Zion Harvey on Tuesday, August 22, 2016. (Image: NBC Nightly News)

On Tuesday, NBC Nightly News revisits the story of Zion Harvey, who a year ago became the first child ever to receive a double hand transplant.

A life-threatening bacterial infection at age 2 required amputation of both of Harvey’s hands and feet. He received a kidney from his mother, Pattie Ray. Then, in July 2015, a team of 40, including 10 hand surgeons, spent more than 10 hours transplanting the then 8-year-old’s hands and forearms at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“When I saw Zion’s hands for the first time after the operation I just felt like he was being reborn,” Ray told the news program in 2015. “I see my son in the light I haven’t seen him in five years. It was like having a newborn. It was a very joyous moment for me. I was happy for him.”

The hands will grow with Harvey, who inspired his doctors when the operation first took place.

“I’ve never seen a tear, never an untoward face, never a complaint,” said Dr. L. Scott Levin, chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery at Penn Medicine and director of the hand transplantation program at Children’s Hospital, who led the operation. “He’s always positive. And that, in and of itself, is remarkable.”

At the time, Levin told NBC Nightly News that surgeons on the team, including Dr. Scott Kozin, chief of staff for Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia, had performed hand transplants on adults, but not children.

Doctor tests hands of double hand transplant recipient Zion Harvey.
Harvey’s transplanted hands get a checkup. (Image: NBC Nightly News)

Tuesday night’s report from Rehema Ellis checks in with the brave patient one year later.

Check the NBC schedule to find out when NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt airs locally.

What Do YOU Think?

Had you heard Harvey’s story before? What do you think of the young boy’s bravery? Tell us in the comments.

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