Zion ..., the first child to undergo a bilateral hand transplant, marks 1 year since surgery at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (PRNewsFoto/The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia)

Since undergoing a bilateral hand transplant at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia 1 year ago, Zion Harvey has learned to throw a football. (PRNewsFoto/The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia)

Physicians and surgeons at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Penn Medicine, and Shriners Hospital for Children-Philadelphia celebrate important milestones then-8-year-old Zion Harvey has achieved since undergoing a bilateral hand transplant 1 year ago.

In the year since the surgery, Zion has spent up to 8 hours per day in rehabilitation at Kennedy Krieger Institute, near his home in Baltimore, undergoing occupational and physical therapy to help his brain relearn to communicate with his limbs and to gain strength and flexibility in his muscles and tendons.

In addition, a team of neuroscientists at CHOP have calibrated functional MRI scans of Zion’s brain and directly correlated his therapy to the brain mapping. Their aim is to help Zion’s primary motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls his hands, will catch up to the other fully developed areas, explains a news release from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Zion also continues to take antisuppressant medication daily to prevent rejection of his limbs as well as his transplanted kidney.

Doctors note in the release that as a result of his therapy, Zion is now able to swing a bat and throw a football, he can take medicine and dress himself, and he can pick up objects.

“He’s gaining independence, and that is the whole reason why we do this,” says L. Scott Levin, MD, FACS, chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and a Professor of Plastic Surgery in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and Director of the Hand Transplantation Program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, in the release.

“Zion’s remarkable progress would not have been possible without a large team of multidisciplinary specialists, and the foundational work our hand transplant team at Penn Medicine has built, starting with our first adult hand transplant in 2011,” he says.

Kennedy Krieger occupational therapists Lindsey Harris and Gayle Gross incorporated Zion’s interest in sports into his therapy, they note in the release.

“We quickly learned Zion’s interest in sports and tapped into that. As a result, we started with basketball and progressed to baseball, culminating in his recent accomplishment of throwing out the first pitch at an Orioles baseball game,” they say.

When asked how his life has changed now that he has hands, Zion shares, “I’m still the same kid everybody knew without hands. But I can do everything now. I can do the same things even better.”

“I believe he could have done anything without hands,” adds Zion’s mother, Pattie Ray. “But now his light will shine even brighter. Whatever he is destined to do, it’s going to make it that much better. I know those hands are going to be used in great ways.”

[Source(s): The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, PR Newswire]