A positive spirit and unsinkable attitude were spotlighted in last week’s column which featured 75-year-old Rudy Siciliano, an artist and former ballroom dancer who has been sidelined due to a stroke and amputation. This Italian immigrant and former Ohioan maintains a joy for life and enthusiasm for watching others dance, an activity he once loved.
One week later, another amputee, 8-year-old Zion Harvey, has received national media attention for his equally as infectious personality and finding enjoyment of life despite his physical limitations. The only difference is that Zion now has transplanted hands, where small stumps once limited his abilities, allowing him to once again participate in activities he once loved.
The July 28 press conference at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was a remarkable moment. The event combined the miracle of medicine with a deserving little boy who displayed a level of appreciation and maturity unparalleled for his young age. Harvey was the star but, in an unexpected diversion, this young patient asked his family to stand up in the front row and be recognized, “for all of their support.”
The 10-hour surgery attached two donor hands. Stricken by a bacterial infection at age 2, Harvey lost both his feet and hands, and also required a kidney transplant from his mother. His mobility was aided by prosthetic legs, but “I hoped for someone to ask me, ‘Do I want a hand transplant?’ and it came true!” Harvey said.
Dr. L. Scott Levin led a team of 40 surgeons which included 10 hand specialists. The group had practiced on cadavers in preparation for the challenges of transplanting the small hands of a child. Harvey is the first known adolescent to receive a bilateral hand transplant in the world. A 2011 hand transplant of an adult also occurred in Philadelphia and from a cadaver donor.
Per Dr. Levin: “I’ve never seen a tear, never a complaint” from Zion. “He has accommodated to the cards life has dealt him.”
The team of specialists attached the two cadaver hands and forearms to Harvey’s arms via “the bone, blood vessels, nerves, muscles, tendons and skin,” Levin said.
Pattie Ray, Harvey’s mother, “saw her son reborn” as his transplanted limbs began receiving blood flow and became pink from the infusion of oxygen. Ray stated that her son “has always been positive with an infectious personality.” One of the first accomplishments Harvey plans to achieve with his new hands “is to pick up by baby sister and swing her around!”
Sadly, much of Harvey’s publicity for his ground-breaking medical procedure was overshadowed by the death of “Cecil the Lion” in Zimbabwe. As an animal lover with several cats and dogs, I find it beyond comprehension as to what joy there could be from slaughtering an animal. Cecil’s demise was long and painful due to being shot by an arrow, which he endured for many hours, until finally being killed the next morning. Hearing the details sickens me.
Upon learning that the lion that Walter Palmer had just killed was wearing a tracking collar and should have been protected from the hunter, according to Palmer’s guide, “he asked if there was an elephant he could hunt,” and showed little remorse for the crime he had committed. It is justified if Palmer is extradited to Zimbabwe. He has ruined his personal and professional life as a dentist, all to inflate his ego as a “big-game hunter.” Thank you, Delta Airlines, for no longer allowing the carcasses of animals to be transported via flights from Africa.
The untimely death of 9-year-old Kaiser Carlile, while serving as a batboy at the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kansas, will close this column. The oddities of life are more poignant when a tragic event impacts or, in this situation, ends the life of a child.
This fluke swing of a bat, which ended Kaiser’s life, occurred in the “on-deck circle” as the next batter was taking practice swings. The player did not see Carlile, potentially blinded by the face shield and helmet all batters must wear when approaching homeplate to bat. Carlile was also wearing his batting helmet, but received the blow in an area not shielded. According to paramedic Mike Goldfeder, who was serving as the game’s umpire, Carlile was able to get up, but collapsed after taking a few steps.
According to the Liberal Bee Jays general manager Mike Carlile, “This is a 9-year-old kid, small in stature who wanted to be one of the guys.” Kaiser obviously loved baseball and was adored by so many. This tragedy is beyond heartbreaking and inexplicable.
Mariann Main is a Delaware native and journalism graduate of The Ohio State University. She has a master’s degree in counseling from Georgia State University, and is licensed as a counselor in both Ohio and Georgia. She can be reached with commentary or questions at MariannMain@gmail.com.