Zion Harvey underwent surgery to replace both of his hands in July 2015 after having his hands and feet amputated at the age of two, following a sepsis infection.

Before the double hand transplant, Harvey had "limited ability to dress, feed and wash himself through adapted processes."
Before the double hand transplant, Harvey had "limited ability to dress, feed and wash himself through adapted processes."

The first child in the world to undergo a double hand transplant is now able to write, feed and dress himself, doctors said on Tuesday, declaring the ground-breaking operation a success after 18 months.

The report in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health provides the first official medical update on 10-year-old Zion Harvey, who underwent surgery to replace both hands in July 2015.

"Eighteen months after the surgery, the child is more independent and able to complete day-to-day activities," said Sandra Amaral, a doctor at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where the operation took place.

"He continues to improve as he undergoes daily therapy to increase his hand function, and psychosocial support to help deal with the ongoing demands of his surgery."

Harvey had his hands and feet amputated at the age of two, following a sepsis infection. He also had a kidney transplant.

Progress made

Before the double hand transplant, Harvey had "limited ability to dress, feed and wash himself through adapted processes, using his residual limbs or specialist equipment," said the report.

Within days of the surgery, Harvey discovered he could move his fingers, using the ligaments from his residual limbs.

"Regrowth of the nerves meant that he could move the transplanted hand muscles and feel touch within around six months, when he also became able to feed himself and grasp a pen to write," said the report.

Eight months after the operation, Harvey was using scissors and drawing with crayons.

Within a year, he could swing a baseball bat using both hands.

He also threw out the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game last August.

Regular meetings with a psychologist and a social worker were part of the recovery process, aimed at helping him cope with his new hands.

Source: AFP