This is the story of an inspiring, 8 year old boy named Zion Harvey from Baltimore, Maryland. Equipped with an infectious smile and an older-than-he-is view of the world, Zion has already overcome a number of difficult challenges in his young life.
With an ever-present smile on his face he explains: “When I was 2, I had to get my hands cut off because I was sick”.
In reality, he suffered a sepsis infection, comprimising his life due to internal organ failure, and resulting in the amputation of his hands and feet.
At age 4 he received a kindey transplant from his mother, Pattie Ray, and was on his way to a healthier future, always with a smile.
Now, at age 8, Zion is making history as the first child recipient of a double hand transplant. He was reviewed for 18 months to assure he was a viable candidate, but even after in-depth analysis, results are never guaranteed. Zion’s reaction?
“When I get these hands, I will be proud of what hands I get, and if it gets messed up,” he continued, “I don’t care because I have my family.”
He truly has an infectious smile and winning attitude about life that many of us could learn from.
Before the surgery, Ray said: “[t]his is just another hurdle that he jumps. He jumps so many hurdles. He’s so amazing. 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.”
As an 8 year old boy, there are many potentially exciting, new activities he will be able to take part in from the climbing monkey bars to walking a dog. But when asked what he’s most excited about doing with his new hands, he said: “pick up my little sister from daycare, and wait for her to run into my hands, and I pick her up, and spin her around.”
A team of 40 medical personnel, including doctors, nurses and anthesiologists, worked together on this revolutionary double transplant, well aware of the challenges and possible complications. But after more than 10 hours in the operating room, the head of the team, Dr. L. Scott Levin, emerged to tell Zion’s mother: “we have some good news for you. Your little guy has two hands.”
Zion isn’t completely in the clear yet, he will be taking a lifetime of immunosuppressant medication to avoid infection, and will be staying in the rehabilitation unit for the next few weeks to learn how to use his new hands.
That said, he’s already moving forward mentally and has told his mom that he and his sister want a new dog, which he is ready to take care of and walk everyday.
Now, what shouldn’t be forgotten when telling this story, is the role that a brave family played by donating the hands through the Gift of Life Donor Program. Another reminder that a loss of one life can help save or improve another.
During a press conference after the successful surgery, an emotional Zion spoked into the microphone and asked for his family members to stand up. He looked to them and said “I want to say to you guys, thank you for helping me through this bumpy road.”
A very grounded young boy with a bright future ahead of him, Zion is full of wisdom and optimism. He took a moment to summarize the importance of family, stating: “family means trust, hope, support, and if you fall down, they always catch you.”
His is truly a remarkable story, and one that we can all hope is repeated many times over. Children are our future, and this child now has a set of hands to help mold the world.
Zion Harvey: a reason to smile today. Let’s spread his story and all of the other positive things that are happening in the world right now. If you know of a story you think our readers would enjoy, please share it in the comments below.