Advancements in modern technology and medical science are allowing patients with spinal cord injuries to move and giving amputee victims their limbs back.

Meet US 10-year-old Zion Harvey, who lost both of his hands and feet due to sepsis at the age of 2.  For six years, Zion had to use his residual limbs on specialist equipment to wash, dress himself and eat until his pioneering double hand transplantation changed his life.  Zion was the first child in the world to undergo double hand transplantation in a procedure that may herald a new revolution in transplant medicine.

After eleven hours of surgery, 4 teams of doctors and a very difficult 18 months recovery period, Zion is now able to swing a baseball bat, use a scissors and colour with crayons.  Referring to his new hands, Zion said: “Here is the piece of my life that was missing.  Now it’s here, my life is complete”.  A significant amount of physiotherapy and occupational therapy was required to help Zion adjust to his new hands as well as counselling to aid his psychological recovery.

Zion’s doctors have published medical notes about his remarkable story in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health Journal which can be found on the link below.


Dr Scott Leaven, lead surgeon said that “his [Zion’s] brain is communicating with his hands.  He says that his brain tells his hands to move and they move and that is in itself remarkable”.  New wave prosthetic hands and limbs also offer patients like Zion a bright future instead of complex transplant surgery.

Technology is also at the forefront to help paralysed victims, people with multiple sclerosis or those who have suffered a stroke.  The cutting-edge technology was originally designed for the US military and is now being used in Irish gyms to enable people with paralysis to walk for the first time.  The technology consists of an exoskeleton bionic suit which allows the individual to get the physical and mental benefits of walking.  The suit provides support for people who do not have it initially and it encourages the movement of the individual, knowing when they want to walk and training the brain in the right way.

Jane Evans, the individual who brought that technology to Ireland, is convinced that this assistive technology should not be solely confined to hospitals but rather be imbedded in the community.  Jane states that “90% of people in wheelchairs are on their own yet much of the resources we spend on is focused on hospitals”. 

 Investment in rehabilitation services is of critical importance in order to achieve better outcomes for patients.  She points out that in Ireland 80% of people who suffer spinal cord injuries never return to work whereas this figure is just 20% in Switzerland.  Proper State investment and assistive technology, some of which can cost under €1,000 per person, could transform the lives of people with disabilities increasing both their quality of life and independence.

Ronan Hynes

For more information, please contact Ronan Hynes, Partner who represents clients with serious and catastrophic injuries on 061-414355 or [email protected].



Published On: November 7, 2017

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