Zion Harvey hand transplant
Zion's operation was a home run success Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

An amazing eight-year-old boy has fulfilled his childhood dream of swinging a baseball bat, a mere year after he became the first ever child to undergo a double hand transplant.

American Zion Harvey had his hands amputated at the age of two because of a life-threatening sepsis infection. His legs were also amputated from below the knee.

"When I was two I had to get my hands cut off because I was sick," he told the BBC.

But now sports-mad Zion can play baseball and American football as well as write, draw, dress and feed himself independently.

Zion had his new hands fitted 18 months ago by a team of 40 medical staff at Philadelphia Children's Hospital in an 11-hour operation.

After continual therapy and rehabilitation sessions, he is now getting to grips with all manner of activities that he simply could not do before.

"He is able to swing a bat with much more co-ordination, and he can write his name quite clearly," said Dr Sandra Amaral, a member of the team treating Zion in Philadelphia.

"It's amazing: now he can pat his mother's cheek and feel it," she added.

Zion's life-threatening illness meant he received dialysis for two years up until the age of four, when he received a kidney transplant from his mother, Pattie Ray.

It was another four years before doctors at the hospital embarked on the tricky procedure of fitting him with new hands.

Zion Harvey hand transplant
Touchdown! Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

In an overnight procedure, the experts fitted him with donor hands that were the correct size, skin tone and blood group.

The operation was a success. But that was not the end of the hard work: ongoing sessions with staff at the hospital and hard work at home have been required to enhance the communication between his brain and new body parts.

Amaral said: "Our study shows that hand transplant surgery is possible when carefully managed and supported by a team of surgeons, transplant specialists, occupational therapists, rehabilitation teams, social workers and psychologists."

Zion Harvey hand transplant
Zion Harvey hand transplant
Zion Harvey hand transplant
Zion before and after the operation