Zion Harvey Receives World's First Successful Double Children's Hand Transplant, Inspires The World With His Maturity and Courage

"And if it gets messed up...I don't care, because I have my family," the 8-year-old said before undergoing the groundbreaking procedure

By Lindsey Caldwell Jul 29, 2015 1:04 AMTags
Zion Harvey, Hand TransplantThe Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Warning: If you aren't prepared to get all choked up, then this isn't the story for you.

Meet Zion Harvey, a remarkable lad who has received the first-ever successful bilateral hand transplant performed on a child! As in, the first in the world! (The first successful double hand transplant performed on an adult occurred in 2011.) But while the procedure sounds truly mindboggling, what's equally amazing is the maturity and wisdom Harvey has met every challenge with throughout.

Harvey, who is now 8, lost his hands and feet when he was 2 to a life-threatening infection that caused multi-organ system failure. It's really a miracle that he survived at all.

His journey was captured in a YouTube video and shared by The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where he tells the camera, "I wasn't always like this, when I was 2, I had to get my hands cut off, because I was sick."

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

The brave and adorable boy tells his mom, Pattie Ray, and the camera in the doctor's office, "When I get these hands I will be proud of what hands I get!"

"I will be proud," he exclaims as he hugs his mom! "I will be too," Mom agrees as she leans in and kisses his forehead. The boy climbs on her lap and proves he's wise beyond his years, saying, "And if it gets messed up...I don't care, because I have my family," as he hugs his Mom tight.

The surgery is very complicated Zion will be visiting doctors forever to ensure that his body isn't rejecting the hands. Dr. L. Scott Levin, the orthopedic surgeon who headed up the 40-person transplant team, recalls asking Zion why he wanted hands. "He said, 'I want to swing on the monkey bars!'" the doctor says.

Levin adds, "That's sort of a milestone for a lot of kids...Our hope is over time, indeed he will be able to do that!"

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Zion says, breaking a few hearts in the process, "I just think some of my classmates, they don't mean to say mean things to me, but it just slips out. So, either someone says something to me, and I just figured it just slipped out and they didn't mean to say it. Everybody has their own way of thinking things."

"This is a new arena in reconstruction surgery, in transplant surgery this gives new hope..." Leven says.

Right before the life-changing surgery begins, Dr. Scott Levin dressed in surgical scrubs tells the large team assembled in the operating room, "We can have complications. We can fail. We can have troubles, but we're not planning on it!" He finishes his speech saying, "We're all here together!"

At 4:32 a.m., Levin, still wearing his his surgical cap, tells Pattie Ray, "We have some good news for you! Your little guy has two hands!"


The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Two weeks after the surgery, Zion is already holding small items such as a sponge with his new hands. Now that the surgery is behind him, what's next? A puppy—who can live in his room, he assures his mother

The grinning boy tells the cameras in the video, "My grandmother says I'm smarter than a lot of grown-ups!"

That you are, young man. Grandma's right.