US boy gets new hands in milestone operation | News | DW | 29.07.2015
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US boy gets new hands in milestone operation

An 8-year old from Baltimore has become the world's youngest recipient of double-hand transplant. The boy is expected to make a full recovery.

It took a medical team of 40 people more than ten hours to perform the operation on the young Zion Harvey, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said.

The Baltimore boy demonstrated his finger movement and still fragile grip at a press conference Tuesday, and described waking up with his new hands as "weird at first, but then good."

"He woke up smiling," said Doctor L. Scott Levin, who heads the hand transplant program. "There hasn't been one whimper, one tear, one complaint."

This is the first bilateral hand transplant on a child in history, according to the hospital. Although the operation was performed earlier this month, the officials only disclosed the news this week.

Throwing a ball

Harvey has lost his hands and his feet after contracting sepsis as a toddler. At the age of four, he needed a new kidney, which he received from his mother.

However, the boy remained active, learning how to run and jump using leg prosthetics, and to write, eat and play video games with his forearms. After a potential donor was found, his parents decided to try the hands transplantation.

"It was no more of a risk than a kidney transplant," his mother, Pattie Ray, said. "So I felt like I was willing to take that risk for him, if he wanted it."

Now, the 8-year old hopes he will eventually be able to throw a football or play on monkey bars with his new hands.

Steel and bone

The surgical team has used steel plates and screws to attach the bones. Doctors than reconnected the veins to establish the blood flow, followed by tendons, muscles and nerves.

Doctors say that the patient should spend several weeks in physical rehabilitation, before returning home. The 8-year old is expected to make a full recovery, albeit with a lifetime regime of immune-suppressing drugs, to ensure his body does not reject his limbs.

dj/kms (AP, AFP, dpa)

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