Doctors Stretch Teen's Cancer-Stricken Leg 11 Inches

A 14-year-old boy can look forward to a healthy, active life, thanks to a remarkable two-year procedure by an Australian medical team, which saved his leg from amputation.

The bone growth procedure, performed by an expert limb reconstruction team at Brisbane’s Royal Children’s Hospital, added 11 inches to the leg of Simeon Fairburn, after surgeons were forced to take out bone ravaged by a tumor.

The Queensland team’s feat is being hailed as the most successful procedure of its type ever performed in the English-speaking world.

Last week Simeon was eager to show off his skill on the basketball court – one of his greatest passions – with his proud mother LaDonna Fairburn looking on. It was the first time Simeon had been able to move effortlessly in years.

”All week he has had this amazing smile on his face from his new-found sense of freedom,” Fairburn said.

When Simeon was 8, he was diagnosed with osteofibrous dysplasia – a condition that occurs when the body grows a fibrous tumor instead of bone, which can lead to amputation or even death.

In the past, surgeons would have taken the fibula from his other leg and place it in the damaged leg, but that can result in other problems, such as multiple fractures while healing. Instead, Dr. Geoff Donald decided to re-grow the original bone – a procedure that he learned in London.

”It is very difficult to grow bone,” Donald said. ”Basically you trick the body into thinking you have a fracture and as the bone heals you stretch the regenerated bone.”

This is done using an Ilizarov frame originally designed in Russia to treat the shattered legs of soldiers after World War II. Pins are placed in the remaining bone and by turning attached screws, the bone can grow a little bit each day.

Simeon, who endured more than 20 operations and spent months in bed or in a wheelchair, would turn the screws himself four times daily. This continued for nearly two years.

He now stands 5-feet, 7-inches tall and is still growing. Now he can’t wait for doctors to give him permission to go running.

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