What is the Value of Hands?




By Ronald W. Holmes, Ph.D.
Vice President/ Education Editor

Once upon a time, there was a student who complained to his teacher about not having the finest shoes to wear to school. Finally, one day he saw a student who did not have any feet to put shoes on to wear to school. The moral of the story is that you should be thankful for what you have and make the best of it. While education is the springboard to technological and medical advances, the critical questions to be asked are: What is the value of hands? Who is 8-year-old Zion Harvey? How does Harvey handle adversity?
Stricken by a life-threatening sepsis infection that resulted in the failure of multiple organs and necessitated surgery, Zion Harvey lost his legs and hands through amputation at the age of two. By the age of 4, the bacterial infection worsened and led to Harvey receiving a kidney transplant from his mother and, graciously, the hands of a deceased donor child. With 25 hand transplants done in the world, Harvey became the first child to receive a double hand transplant.

During the operation, Harvey endured a 10-hour complicated, surgical procedure accompanied by a 40-member medical staff of nurses, anesthesiologists and surgeons under the supervision of Dr. L. Scott Levin at Pen Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

According to CBS News, “the donor’s hands and forearms were attached by connecting bones, blood vessels, nerves, muscles, tendons and skin. The surgical team was divided into four working groups, two focused on the donor hands, and two focused on the recipient. First, the bones in his arm were connected with steel plates and screws. Next, microvascular surgical techniques were used to connect the arteries and veins. Once blood began flowing through the reconnected blood vessels, surgeons repaired and rejoined each muscle and tendon one-by-one. Then they reattached nerves and closed the surgical sites.” Considering this difficult procedure, Levin said in a press statement, “We have every reason to believe that because Zion’s hands are alive and his growth plates are in tact from the donor that he will grow like a normal child.”

Realizing the value of hands, Harvey proudly showed his hands at the CHOP’s press conference. He gave thanks to all those who helped him through his medical journey. He proclaimed that the first thing he was going to do was, “pick up my sister from daycare and spin her around.” Harvey’s jubilation was echoed by his mother, Patti Ray. She said, “When I saw Zion’s hands for the first time after the operation, I just felt like he was being reborn.”

As remarkable as it is, Harvey was optimistic about his situation even before the surgery. He became acclimated to his condition of not having hands and learned how to use his forearms to eat, write and play video games. Harvey used his prosthetics for his feet so he could walk and run without assistance. Harvey said, “When I get these hands, I will be proud of the hands I get. If it gets messed up, I don’t care because I have my family.”

This is a great message for students and other individuals who have all of their limbs and faculties such as hearing, seeing and thinking. We must be thankful for all that we have, and we should make the best of them.

Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of nine books, “Education Questions to be Answered,” “Current Issues and Answers in Education,” “How to Eradicate Hazing,” “Professional Career Paths,” “Your Answers to Education Questions,” “How to revitalize the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.” “Completing the Dissertation: Tips, techniques and real-life experiences from Ph.D. graduates,” “Jacob’s Dream, A Story of Careers for Children” and Jacob’s Dream, A Story of Animals in Africa. He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper. Holmes is a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at rwh@theholmeseducationpost.com