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Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center (MCASAC)(DERWOOD, Md.) -- A Maryland animal shelter is hoping that a heartfelt letter written by Susie the cat's previous owner before her death, will help the feline's chances of finding a forever home.

"I'm sure that when she wrote it, she wrote it just to the intent of getting it to the adopter," said Katherine Zenzano, community outreach coordinator of Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center in Derwood, Maryland. "But we realized Susie was wasn't going anywhere. Some cats are really great at selling themselves and Susie wasn’t selling herself.

"If this letter can in any way help Susie, or any other cats in the same situation, we are happy to get it out there because we think it can touch a lot of people."

Zenzano told ABC News that Susie, a 5-year-old domestic short-hair orange tabby, was brought into MCASAC on May 15 by her owner's son, who said he was no longer able to care for his mother's cat following her death.

"He had said that he could not have the cat where he lived," she added. "We assume his mother knew this was going to happen because she wrote a letter to the person that was going to adopt Susie. He gave it to our intake counselor, so that's now in a file waiting for whoever comes to adopt her, and it will be passed onto them."

"It [the letter] was very touching," she added. "The adoption counselor had tears in her years. She couldn’t bring herself to read it, but she though it could serve a purpose."

Susie's owner's note read, in part:

Dear Friend, Thank you for adopting my friend, Susie. She was one of three cats in a litter. November 15, 2010 is her approximate birthdate. She moved in with me on December 1, 2010.

Susie is unusual but I enjoy her company.

She is a good snuggler but she likes to be the boss. She spends much of her time on my bed but I always seems [sic] to know where I am. I hope you enjoy Susie as much as I have.

Zenzano said it's not often the shelter learns this much about an animal, but thinks sharing the letter could help make Susie a desirable pet for potential owners.

"It's just a sweet history of their life together," she added. "Every cat has a story. Every animal that comes here has a story and we are left to guess so much. We piece together a lot of the story for them, but with Susie we have a lot to go on."

While Susie was at first a bit skittish coming to the shelter, Zenzano said she's warmed up to the staff and has been profiled as a "love bug."

She added that there have been some families that have expressed interest in adopting Susie, but there have yet to be any serious inquiries.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Tomwang112/iStock/ThinkStock(NEW YORK) -- Officials in both Iran and Iraq declared a mandatory holiday this month after temperatures soared far into the triple digits.

In Iraq, temperatures reached a sweltering 126 degrees and officials declared a mandatory holiday to try and protect people from succumbing to the heat. In Iran, the country faced possible record-breaking temperatures and high humidity that will leave residents feeling they are in temperatures as high as 151.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or 66.2 degrees Celsius.

The hottest temperature ever recorded was 56.7 degrees Celsius in Death Valley, but that did not account for humidity.

Such severe temperatures can be incredibly taxing on the body with people more at risk for serious complications including heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

While the old and young are most susceptible to scorching temperatures, such severe heat can be dangerous to anyone spending time out doors.

We asked experts to explain how heat affects the body.

Heat exhaustion is a precursor to heat stroke and can be a sign to get indoors and cooled down fast. While it may seem easy to figure out if someone is getting overheated, experts say that's not always the case. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a list of key symptoms for both heat exhaustion and heat stroke that is included below.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  •     Heavy sweating
  •     Weakness
  •     Clammy skin
  •     Fainting
  •     Fast, weak pulse
  •     nausea/vomiting

Heat stroke symptoms can include:

  •     Disorientation
  •     Body temperature above 103-104
  •     Fast, strong pulse.
  •     Hot, red dry or moist skin
  •     Unconsciousness

Dr. Edmundo Mandac, director of the Emergency Medicine Clinical Operations, University Hospital Case Medical Center, said that it can be especially difficult to tell if older people are overheating because their body can lose the ability to react to extreme heat.

"They’re in a hot environment and there temperature awareness is not very good," said Mandac. "They don’t have warning signs of sweating."

He said people are usually determined to reach heat stroke if their body temperature reaches about 104 degrees Fahrenheit, but that for older people it may be lower. He explained that as the body has multiple ways of trying to lower the internal temperature.

"The interesting thing is the body has to release the heat somehow, the blood vessels dilate and open up and allow more blood to flow through," said Mandac. "The body thinks it can dissipate the heat…[but]their blood pressure drops."

As a result people can be more at risk for fainting with extreme heat. Heat exhaustion is also just a precursor to heat stroke, a potentially deadly complication as the body's temperature rises.
Mandac explained that heat stroke can be so bad that the body will just stop sweating.

"Things start clamping down [you're] losing fluids and your body says 'I don’t have enough fluids in my central system,'" said Mandac. He explained at this point the patient could be in a dire condition because the body has lost the ability to regulate the internal temperature.

Without any fluids to cool the body, Mandac said this is where things get "bad."

"It...can cause heart failure and cause kidneys to fail and when that happens basically those are the major systems," said Mandac, explaining the fatal risk of heat stroke. He said treatment includes putting icepacks in the underarms, neck and groin to lower the body temperature. In rare cases fluid is pumped into the stomach to lower internal temperature even faster.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(GENEVA) -- Researchers may have found a vaccine for the deadly Ebola virus.

A new study conducted on Ebola-affected communities in the African country of Guinea has proved to be 100 percent effective in stopping the spread of the virus.

Doctors used what they call a "ring vaccination" strategy, vaccinating the friends, family, neighbors and coworkers of almost 100 Ebola patients.

"The data so far shows that none of the 2,014 persons vaccinated developed Ebola virus disease after 10 days after vaccination," Ebola Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny, head of the Ebola R&D at the World Health Organization, said.

Researchers are now going to expand the trial to include children as well.

"By continuing the trial with this modification, with doing all the vaccinations immediately and also including younger people, we will be able to assist the Ebola response team, bringing Ebola transmission to zero in Guinea," Kieny said.

ABC US News | World News

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Skinny, as he is now appropriately called, was found abandoned in a Dallas suburb back in 2012. The cat weighed a whopping 41-pounds and had a hard time walking more than five steps.

But all that changed when he was adopted by veterinarian Dr. Brittney Barton, of HEAL Veterinary Hospital, in 2013.

Barton started Skinny on a workout regimen including sit ups, underwater treadmill walking and playtime.

But when it came to walking on land, the feline still needed a bit of extra encouragement. In the beginning, the vet would place treats on the treadmill as inspiration to get moving, but Skinny has now learned to hop on the treadmill with the simple sound of treats shaking around.

“The secret is basically the same secret for all of us,” Barton explained of Skinny’s 22-pound weight loss on ABC News' Good Morning America Friday. “It’s about calorie intake and calories burned. It’s not just about the diets that we used, but trying to figure out ways to get them moving.”

Barton recommends giving pets “green beans and blueberries in lieu of the commercialized [foods].”

Most importantly, she adds, “Try not to love them with food but try to love them with your attention and your time.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Generation Z is notorious for being glued to their phones and spending countless hours on social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. And, according to a new study, all that time spent on social media may be making them unhappy.

Research conducted by the Ottawa Public Health agency, and published in the Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking journal, finds that teens who spend more than two hours on social media each day are more likely to suffer from mental health problems, psychological distress and suicidal thoughts.

Data was pulled from a sample of 750 teens in grades 7-12, collected for the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey. Of that sample, about 25 percent of students said they spend more than two hours daily on social media, and those students were more likely to report poor mental health.

These results do not prove causality, but researchers suspect that the relationships between social media use and mental health occur in both ways. Teens with mental health issues may turn to social media for connection, while using social media frequently may lead to mental health issues over time.

"It could be that teens with mental health problems are seeking out interactions as they are feeling isolated and alone," lead author Dr. Hugues Sampasa-Kanyinga tells The Huffington Post in an email. "Or they would like to satisfy unmet needs for face-to-face mental health support."

Still, the issue is complex, says Sampasa-Kanyinga, and looking only at social media use is not sufficient to explain the cause of mental health issues.

Think it’s time for teens to stop tapping their thumbs? Dr. Brenda K. Wiederhold of the Interactive Media Institute in San Diego says not necessarily.

"We see social networking sites, which may be a problem for some, also being a solution," says Wiederhold in a statement, reacting to the study's findings. "Since teens are on the sites, it is the perfect place for public health and service providers to reach out and connect with this vulnerable population and provide health promotion systems and supports."

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

You use them every day for some of the most important things you do, and if you’re not careful, they might be silently suffering.

We’re talking lips, ladies, and things you should be doing to look out for their well-being.

If your lips are dry, that's a sign that you’re not getting enough water, so drink up and stay hydrated.

And with dry lips, be smart when scraping off that dead skin. Coat it with a moisturizer first, and then lightly scratch off the extra skin.

Speaking of moisture, natural oils like coconut oil are great for keeping your lips well hydrated.

And lastly, use that lip balm. Try to find one with an SPF of 15 or 30 because your lips definitely need sunscreen too.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — An outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease has infected at least 46 in New York City and health officials said the bacteria has already been found in cooling units on top of at least two buildings.

Two patients with Legionnaire's disease died during the outbreak, but officials stressed that the two patients, a man and woman in their 50s, had other conditions including lung and heart issues.

Caused by a bacteria called Legionella, the infection causes a type of pneumonia that can be damaging or even fatal for those with compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions. It’s contracted when a person inhales small droplets of air or water with the bacteria and can be spread from contaminated hot tubs, fountains, cooling units for air conditioners and large plumbing systems.

Dr. Mary Basset, commissioner of the New York City Health Department, said the bacteria which causes the disease has been found in two cooling towers in the Bronx, one in a hospital and one in a commercial buildings.

She stressed that the units did not lead to infections inside the buildings and explained that as the cooling towers release mist, it falls onto the street and can potentially infect those passing by.

“It thrives in water and in summer we have a better atmosphere for it,” explained Basset. “We are looking into ways to keep a better eye on the maintenance of these cooling towers.”

She said the reported cases were spread out in a large area so investigators were still searching for other sources of infection.

“We are conducting a swift investigation to determine the source of the outbreak and prevent future cases. I urge anyone with symptoms to seek medical attention right away,” Bassett said in an earlier statement.

Symptoms of Legionnaire’s disease include coughing, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches or headaches.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said that 46 infections constitute a large outbreak for Legionnaire’s disease and that health officials will likely look for a common source if people are in the same neighborhood.

“If they are clustered geographically … Where do they travel, where do they work, where do they worship?,” Schaffner said of the kinds of questions health officials will ask patients. “By localizing it geographically you can look up and see if you can find cooling towers that might be contaminated.”

While the outbreak is worrying, Schaffner said people should not panic since the disease cannot be spread person to person and antibiotic treatment is available.

The disease was named after it infected numerous people at a conference of the American Legion in 1976. The bacteria leads to the hospitalization of around 8,000 to 18,000 people in the U.S. every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it is more commonly reported in the summer and early fall.

ABC US News | World News

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Photo by Mark Wilson/Newsmakers(NEW YORK) -- The National Institutes of Health reported successful use of non-invasive electrical stimulation treatment for paralysis on Thursday, citing the ability of five paralyzed patients to move their legs.

The study involved use of electrical stimulation to the spinal cord for five men with complete motor paralysis. The number of patients who have achieved mobility while receiving the stimulation is now at nine, the NIH says.

The men had their legs hung from the ceiling in braces, allowing them to move freely without gravitational resistance. The NIH notes that such movement is not comparable to walking, but represents "significant progress towards the eventual goal of developing a therapy for a wide range of individuals with spinal cord injury."

"These encouraging results provide continued evidence that spinal cord injury may no longer mean a life-long sentence of paralysis," said Roderic Pettigrew, director for the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at NIH.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Ronda Rousey recently posed in Sports Illustrated for its swimsuit issue. Instead of dropping weight like most do before stripping down and putting on a bikini, the champion MMA fighter decided to pack on a few pounds.

"I felt like I was much too small for a magazine that is supposed to be celebrating the epitome of a woman," she told "I wanted to be at my most feminine shape, and I don't feel my most attractive at 135 pounds, which is the weight I fight at. At 150 pounds, I feel like I'm at my healthiest and my strongest and my most beautiful."

Rousey, 28, said that being an athlete growing up, she felt "my body type was uncommon, it was a bad thing."

"Now that I'm older, I've really begun to realize that I'm really proud that my body has developed for a purpose and not just to be looked at," she added. "But to be honest, it took a lot of time to develop a healthier relationship with food and with my weight. My mind was backward. I thought I wanted my body to look a certain way so I could be happy."

Rousey said her fighting weight is only maintained for that purpose and for weigh-ins.

"Afterward, I maintain a weight where I'm not starving or feeling weak, which makes me happier," she said.

What's the fighter-turned-actress afraid of?

"Failure. I'm scared of failure so much more than any of the other girls I compete against that I work so much harder than they possibly could. I'm totally down with spiders and frogs and heights and snakes — everything, I'm cool with it. But I have such a huge fear of failure that I go to bed every night thinking about all the possible ways that I can succeed," she said.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Loop Images/UIG via Getty Images(LONDON) — Arriving at the airport isn't usually an experience travelers equate with a positive mood.

But fliers traveling from London's Gatwick Airport will find mood-boosting food available, designed specifically to make fliers happier before boarding.

The airport teamed up with nutritionist Jo Travers to become the first airport in the world to introduce a happiness guide on restaurant menus. Designed to help travelers have a "happy holiday from the moment they arrive at the airport," a spokesperson told ABC News, Gatwick has identified roughly two dishes at eight restaurants that boost serotonin.

“Happiness is a complex thing, but there are certain foods you can eat that will help the ‘happy’ chemicals in your brain to keep flowing," said Travers "Two key players are the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, along with amino acids tryptophan and theanine which can contribute to the creation of serotonin which is known to most as 'happy hormones.' Low levels of these chemicals can cause fatigue in addition to lowering existing levels of serotonin. Similarly, a deficiency of Omega 3, can lead to fatigue and mood swings."

Happy dishes will be identified by yellow happy face emoji icons on the menu.

For travelers not passing through Gatwick, Travers shared food that make people happy.

Top 10 ingredients that can make you happy:

1. Salmon

2. Tuna

3. Bananas

4. Oats

5. Citrus fruit

6. Spinach & Kale

7. Sesame seeds

8. Green tea

9. Chickpeas

10. Soy and soy products like miso

“People often don’t realise how much of an impact what they eat can have on their mood," said Travers, which can be particularly important if you’re about to take a long flight.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Richard Ellis/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Body camera footage made headlines again this week after Officer Ray Tensing was indicited for murder after he allegedly shot a man in the head during a traffic stop.

At a news conference, prosecutor Joseph Deters said the footage was "shocking" and cited it as a key component in the evidence that lead a grand jury to indict tensing.

While Tensing's case shows how body cameras can shed light on an incident, experts say how the cameras will affect officers and police departments on a large scale remains largely unknown.

Michael Broder, a therapist who worked with the Philadelphia police department for five years providing psychological counseling, said the big question among experts is if the body cameras will make police afraid to act or if they will just not act inappropriately.

“Some cops are going to welcome it and some cops who are not going to [care] and there other cops who are going to make a decision, ‘I’m not going to take any chances for losing my job,’... or go to jail,” for a single action, said Broder. “The independent variable there is the rise in crime statistics or whether that it rises at all.”

There are not many studies on the effects of body cameras, but one important one found that use of force and complaints against police went down after the technology was introduced in a small California town. In the 2014 study, researchers from the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology studied police officers in the town of Rialto, California who had been given body cameras.

“Knowledge that events are being recorded creates ‘self-awareness’ in all participants during police interactions,” said University of Cambridge officials in a statement on the study. “ This is the critical component that turns body-worn video into a ‘preventative treatment.’”

They said the camera may cause individuals to modify their behavior in response to a “third-party” surveillance related to the camera. They compared the camera to a proxy for a “legal courts — as well as courts of public opinion” that lead officers to be more cautious.

"An officer is obliged to issue a warning from the start that an encounter is being filmed," explained study author Barak Ariel in a statement. "Impacting the psyche of all involved by conveying a straightforward, pragmatic message: we are all being watched, videotaped and expected to follow the rules."

According to the study, complaints against officers in the area dropped from 0.7 to 0.07 per 1,000 contacts in that year-long study.

Another study looked at how surveillance cameras can increase accountability among bystanders in an emergency. The “bystander effect” has been used by social scientists to explain why people are less likely to help when they’re in a group than when they’re alone.

In part researchers have found that people may be less likely to help when they think someone else can take on those duties. However, in the 2012 study researchers found by adding a camera, participants had more “public self-awareness” and as a result were more likely to act and help.

David Silber, a professor of psychology emeritus at George Washington University and expert in the psychology of crime and violence, said more study was needed to understand how body cameras will affect police but he suspects they aren’t going anywhere soon.

“I have a feeling whatever the influence of body cameras are now they will tend to grow as it becomes known they are pretty reliable records and subject to some interpretation of course,” said Silber.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Could the Kardashian influence have finally infiltrated even the hospital delivery room of an expectant mother?

Fans of the show will remember Kourtney Kardashian's documented-for-TV delivery of her daughter, Penelope. There were eight family members in the room (not to mention the thousands of people who later watched at home), including son Mason, sisters Kim and Khloe, brother Rob, half siblings Kendall and Kylie, mom Kris Jenner and Scott Disick, the baby's father.

"Crowd birthing" — or inviting throngs of people into the delivery room and/or documenting the experience on social media — might be the latest trend among pregnant women. One U.K. parenting site, Channel Mum, said the average number of friends and family present for a birth is eight. In other words, the same number of people as Kourtney Kardashian.

"The term is one I'm just starting to hear, but the practice of having a lot of people in the delivery room has been getting popular for some time," Babble blogger and birth doula Bailey Gaddis told ABC News. The Ojai, California mom had five family and friends in the room for the birth of her son, her husband, her mother, her mother-in-law, her brother-in-law and a friend. She recently attended at the birth of a woman with seven friends and family in the room.

All those people, combined with additional medical staff, easily adds up to double-digits.

Gaddis said it's typical that a laboring mom might have friends and family coming in and out of the hospital room to say hello and check in. But as the moment of birth arrives "people just pour in and the room fills up," she said. "If the mom or the father don't object, it's unlikely that the nurses will tell anyone to leave, especially in the case of a delivery where there's little medical intervention needed."

Demand for more people in the delivery room led one hospital to increase the number of people allowed from two to three to unlimited, said Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, Division Chief of General Obstetrics and Gynecology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Ohio. But then, nurses sometimes felt they "lost control of the room."

The hospital then went back to a three-person rule, but turned a blind eye to more people as long as the nurses felt comfortable that the mother was being well taken care of.

"There's been a lot of back-and-forth discussion on this," Greenfield said, "it's definitely a key issue."

Greenfield pointed out that having a lot of people in a small delivery room can be a big issue in an emergency when medical staff may need to enter and exit the room quickly.

And for moms who want to share the details of the birth of their child with even more people than can fit in the hospital room, there's always social media.

In 2013, Ruth Iorio live-tweeted the details of her birth, complete with placenta photos and her very own hashtag #ruthshomebirth.

Greenfield said that when it comes to deciding who and how many people witness the birth of your child, a friend of hers lent a piece of advice that moms might want to consider. "Never invite anyone to the birth if you would feel bad if they saw you throw up," she said. "It's often not very pretty."

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Organization expert Marie Kondo has been dubbed Japan’s queen of clean -- and she’s the driving force behind a new movement that’s aimed at helping people declutter their homes and lives for good.

In her New York Times best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Kondo gives a step-by-step guide to her patented KonMari method that’s gaining momentum worldwide.

In the self-help tome, Kondo encourages readers to examine their belongings and only surround themselves with things that "spark joy."

That philosophy can transform, said Wendy Goodman, New York Magazine’s design editor.

"Think of this as a celebration," Goodman told ABC News. "You say, 'Does this bring me joy?,' if not, it goes out."

"She's very much about having a relationship, in a very direct way, with objects and coming to terms with the things that you actually need," Goodmain said of Kondo.

Kondo’s method is simple. It says that in order to properly de-clutter a house, people should start with the easiest item -- clothing, and then move on to books, papers, and finally, miscellaneous items. These items, considered the hardest to tackle, include things such as phone chargers and keys.

"You do not go room by room, you go category by category," Goodman said. "Everything has its own space and its own life."

Depending on the size of the residence, the entire decluttering process can take about six months. Someone following Kondo’s method can discard or donate between 20 and 30 45-liter bags of stuff. For a family of three, that number can approach 70 bags of unnecessary things.

Goodman, who had a consultation with Kondo in her home, is slowly implementing the method.

"This process is about putting yourself in the present to go forward,” she said.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

As much as we love them, we all know how stubborn men can be.

Unfortunately, guys can be stubborn with their health, too, and that can have some major consequences.

Men are more likely to engage in risk behaviors and less likely to take diagnoses and prescriptions seriously.

Here’s what you can do to help the men in your life lead longer and stronger lives:

  • Encourage them to stay active and eat well, and stay educated on health issues.
  • Make sure everyone is making their regular doctor’s appointments.
  • Lead by example and be consistent. Make this an act of love, and your man will surely thank you.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Clem Murray/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS via Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- The youngest recipient of a dual hand transplant may be through his surgery, but the real test of the transplant’s success may come as he starts to recover and gain use of his new hands.

Doctors are hopeful that the new hands for Zion Harvey, 8, will hold up during his lifetime, but they also acknowledged that he is in uncharted territory.

Zion lost his hands and feet from a dangerous infection at age 2 and has largely coped with the disability through prosthetics for his feet, but his doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia wanted to give him a more permanent solution.

“We wanted to really make sure that this was going to work for our patient and work for a lifetime, not just a year,” Dr. Benjamin Chang, co-director of the Hand Transplantation Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said in a video released by the hospital.

After the 10-hour surgery earlier this month, Zion has months of recovery ahead of him, but he’s already reached the record books. Before Zion's groundbreaking surgery, hand transplants had been performed only on adult patients. Chang said because the procedure is so new, they do not know whether Zion's new hands will last forever.

"We just don’t know," Chang said of the transplant's durability. "The adults that have had transplants have had a least one rejection episode after the transplant."

Dr. W. P. Andrew Lee, chairman of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins University, said the first successful hand transplant occurred in 1999.

“We think it can go indefinitely, but I have to tell you the longest hand transplant was performed just 16 yeas ago,” said Lee, who was not involved with Zion's surgery. “That’s the track record.”

Other issues the boy might face include the immune system rejecting the tissue or possibly other long-term health consequences of being on immuno-suppressing drugs, Lee said. Zion was already on immuno-suppressants because he had a kidney transplant when he was younger, hospital officials noted.

“In the case of hand transplant, the problem will manifest as rejection of the transplant hand,” Lee explained of possible complications. “If the rejection is mild it can be treated with medication. If it is severe or if it happens repeatedly then it becomes more and more difficult to treat.”

As patients go through physical therapy, they can regain a significant portion of their dexterity, Lee said.

Chang said the goal is currently to get Zion to simply make a fist and open his hand. He said the therapy is complicated because Zion's hands are completely numb as he recovers.

"We’re waiting for him to regain the ability to feel," explained Chang. "The nerves have to grow back from his own native nerves into the transplanted hands...It will grow about an inch a month. It’s going to be six months before he gains feeling in the hands."

Chang said that the hands were attached in a way so that the bone's "growth plate" was left unharmed.

"The area where we [used] the metal plates to join the bones together, we don’t cross over the growth plate," explained Chang. He said the bones would be expected to grow until Zion was through puberty.

In video released by the hospital, Zion is able to move his new hands in physical therapy and even seems to scratch an itch on his face. According to his Chang, Zion's big goal "is to climb the monkey bars."

But prior to the surgery, the 8-year-old said he knew he would be happy as long as he had his family.

“When I get these hands I will be proud of the hands I get,” he says in a video released by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “If it gets messed up, I don’t care because I have my family.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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