Thoughts on Hand Transplants 

I’m currently sitting at the Mazda dealership while my car gets it’s 5,000 mile service. It’s crazy that I’ve already driven that many miles, but it adds up quickly when you’re zoom-zooming around New England. 

 

My new ride…. zoom zoom!


The dealer just walked in after parking that red Miata and said “You could be driving that! You’d fit right in it!” Hah. Maybe next time, buddy.  

This afternoon I am heading up to Springfield, MA to pick up Kris, and then we are zoom-zooming all the way up to Grand Isle, VT.  

I CAN HARDLY WAIT. 

One thing I wanted to talk about today was the story of Zion Harvey’s bilateral hand transplant. If you follow my Facebook page, you may have seen the link I posted there the other day. 

Here is a longer version, which Dave and I watched last night: Zion’s Hand Transplant.  I highly recommend watching this one, even if you’ve already seen the shorter one. Grab some tissues. 

 

Zion with his new hands.

 
Oh my goodness. This story touched me on many levels. First of all, any time I see a kid having surgery, there is a part of me that is right there on the table with them. Second, the hospital involved is Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, aka, CHOP, where I spent a bit (ok, a lot) of time when I was a kid. I was probably operated on in that same room. So it hits close to home for those reasons. 

All of that aside, the maturity level of this kid is insane. It’s hard to imagine having been through all that he has faced in his life already. His attitude and outlook is incredible. It’s so cool that he’s able to have this procedure, although as you’ll see, it is not without risks and a lifetime of maintenance. 

Also, can we just take a moment to consider the complexity of this surgery? As the doctor says in the video, the vessels and tendons and everything are smaller in children, so that adds a challenge, but look at how many tubes and cords (for lack of a better term) there are to attach! Plus getting the bones to line up and everything! Omg. And I can’t even imagine how painful the healing process must be. Seriously. 

Of course I also think about the child that the hands came from. What happened? How did his/her parents decide to donate? Will they see this story and know that these hands belonged to their child? And what will it be like for Zion to grow up looking at hands that once belonged to someone else? 

I was initially made aware of this story when a friend with EEC posted this on her page and mentioned that she would be interested in having a hand transplant. 

At first I was surprised that she would want such a thing, but then she reminded me that she does not have any thumbs. Still, it seems like an incredibly intense procedure to go through if you can manage without. I mean, you have to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of your life, which can cause a whole bunch of other problems. 

I consider myself one of the lucky ones as far as ectrodactyly goes. I might not have 5 fingers on each hand, but the fingers I do have work well and I haven’t needed any surgery on my hands at all. I’ll likely never be a hand model, or a thumb wrestling champion, but I am definitely not at hand transplant level either. I can only imagine how tough a decision it would be to make, though obviously if you do not have hands or the hands you have don’t function properly, then perhaps it makes the decision easier. 

That’s my opinion for now. I’d be interested to hear from others. Would you have a hand transplant if you could?

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Hand Transplants 

  1. Miranda Bethay says:

    My son was born with just one digit on each hand. While I’m confident that he could manage, and thrive, I’m very much interested at looking at the procedure as an option for him. It would give him so much more function and further to that, hands are so much a part of who we are and how we communicate. I never realized myself how much I use non-verbal communication or gestures during conversation until I had my son. I will also catch myself that truly requires multiple fingers – like pressing CTRL + Alt + Delete – and I’m stumped by how he would do that. Being so little, he could better adapt to 10 from his 2 than someone who grew up with 2 as all that they ever knew. I worry that other parents of children with limb differences with be angered or disappointed should my son receive a hand transplant. But truly it is not because I’m ashamed of him. We give our kids any edge in life possible, whether that’s private schools, tutors, breastfeeding, sports or what have you. As his mother, I just want to set him up for the best possible chance for success.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heather McKelvie says:

      I wouldn’t judge anyone for making that decision. I think it’s hard with kids though because they can’t necessarily speak for themselves if they don’t understand the full repercussions of their decision. So as a parent that puts even more pressure on you! Hopefully it won’t be long before they can grow hands in a lab and then people could have their own tissue grown into hands and then there wouldn’t be the issue of donor rejection. That’s the scariest part in my opinion!

      Like

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