An 11-year-old girl with the country's first bionic arm following cancer treatment is in town to have the appendage lengthened.
We took a closer look at this groundbreaking surgery that look placed in our own backyard. It could change the future for some cancer patients.
Josalyn Kaldenberg loves to draw.
“I really like drawing horses the best,” she said.
But osteosarcoma of her right humerus, or bone cancer, almost robbed her of the ability to create art.
“She underwent some chemotherapy and we were facing some surgery to remove the cancer. Really the only option was to amputate her arm,” said her mother, Heidi.
But a couple of days before that amputation was to take place, they found Dr. Douglas Letson, a cancer surgeon at Moffitt Cancer Center who thought he could take out the tumor and replace her humerus with a bionic arm.
It would be a first of its kind surgery.
“It’s a challenge because in children they are still growing,” the doctor said.
But Letson replaced her real bone with a device that could lengthen as she aged.
“What we’re going to do Friday is make a small incision, and there's a locking screw and a screwdriver to turn it,” he said. “As we turn it, her arm will lengthen about a centimeter.”
She'll face five or six more surgeries as she grows, but Josalyn is just thankful she didn't lose her arm.
What do other kids say when they learn this unique scar is due to her bionic arm?
“Some are like wow that's really cool,” she said.
The surgery took the generosity of many in Tampa Bay to see this family through.
“The insurance situation at the time was not conducive to us coming here and getting this done,” her mother said. “So, Dr. Letson agreed to waive his fees and work for free basically which was another big part of the miracle.”
The doctor worked with Shriner's Hospital, which performed the procedure at no cost to the family.
Josalyn will be back at Shriner's Friday to get the lengthening process.