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Zion Harvey, mother to ride Donate America float in Rose Parade

12/30/2016, 6 a.m.
Nation’s first pediatric bilateral hand transplant patient in Rose Parade
Zion Harvey and mother, Patti Ray Courtesy Photo

— On Jan. 2, 2017, people from across the country will share in the 128-year-old tradition of watching the Rose Parade, which is held every year in Pasadena, Calif. For the past 14 years, Donate Life America has participated in this celebration by creating a float to promote organ and tissue donation, and this year will be no different! Gift of Life Donor Program – the organ procurement organization (OPO) serving the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware – is supporting Zion Harvey’s journey to California to ride on the float, along with his mother, Patti Ray, who will walk alongside the float as a living donor. Zion is one of 23 people who were selected to ride on the Rose Parade float.

Nine-year-old Zion, a Baltimorean, was the first child in the world to receive a double hand transplant in 2015, when surgeons from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Penn Medicine and Shriners Hospitals for Children – Philadelphia, joined to complete this innovative transplant. The surgical team successfully transplanted donor hands and forearms onto then eight-year-old Zion in the complex, 11-hour procedure.

At the age of two, Zion developed sepsis, a life-threatening infection that attacked his entire body and eventually required amputation of both of his hands and his legs below the knee. The infection also damaged his kidneys, which required him to receive a life-saving kidney transplant from his mother when he was just four years old.

Today, nine-year-old Zion Harvey can throw a baseball over home plate since receiving his transplant. He can write in his journal, prepare himself lunch and manage zippers on his clothes. However, for most of his life, these and many other ordinary actions were impossible for him. When asked how his life has changed now that he has hands, Zion said, “I’m still the same kid everybody knew without hands. But I can do everything now. I can do the same things even better.” Zion and Patti Ray are excited to participate in the 2017 Rose Parade, and are grateful to Gift of Life Donor Program for allowing them to be a part of this special celebration.

The Donate Life America's float theme “Teammates in Life,” stresses the importance of working together to save lives. The float depicts a spectacular Polynesian catamaran, which will be propelled by Zion along with a team of 23 organ, eye and tissue transplant recipients— rowing in unison with strength gained from their donors.

Courtesy Photo

The Donate Life America's float theme “Teammates in Life,” stresses the importance of working together to save lives. The float depicts a spectacular Polynesian catamaran, which will be propelled by Zion along with a team of 23 organ, eye and tissue transplant recipients— rowing in unison with strength gained from their donors.

Donate Life America’s float is supported by more than 50 organizations from across the U.S. to help promote the life-saving power or organ donation, and to raise awareness about the more than 119,000 men, women and children in the United States who are currently awaiting a transplant.

The float’s theme is “Teammates in Life,” which stresses the importance of working together to save lives. The float depicts a spectacular Polynesian catamaran, which will be propelled by Zion along with a team of 23 organ, eye, and tissue transplant recipients - rowing in unison with strength gained from their donors. The sails of the vessel will feature 60 floral portraits of donors interwoven with Polynesian designs and patterns. Just as the donors’ gifts empower the lives of others, the sails help power the catamaran on its journey. Sixteen living donors, including Patti Ray, will walk alongside the float carrying flowers in celebration of the life they have given to others and the quality of life they continue to enjoy themselves. For more information about the float, visit www.donatelifefloat.org.

Gift of Life Donor Program has worked tirelessly for the past 42 years to coordinate donors’ generosity with those in need. Since 1974, Gift of Life – the organ procurement organization for the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware – has helped save nearly 42,000 lives through organ donation, and enhanced over half a million lives through tissue donation. For more information or to register, visit donors1.org.