HealthWatch: Saving Steve’s Leg … Twice!

Health Watch

CHICAGO, Ill. (Ivanhoe Newswire)—This year about 3,600 people will be diagnosed with bone cancer. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are often treatment options. In the past, patients faced possible amputation. More on improvements in limb-sparing procedures that have saved a man’s leg not once, but twice.

Every step Steve Mateja takes is nothing short of a miracle. At age 19, Steve was diagnosed with bone cancer in his leg. Back in 1987, many patients would have faced amputation.

“I wasn’t one of those people that gave up easily. Even through chemotherapy and the original surgeries, I was always, ‘what do I need to do,’” Steve recalled.

At the time, orthopedic specialist Dr. Henry Finn used a device that allowed him to spare most of Steve’s leg.

“We chose to implant a custom-made device that included a cadaver bone that replaced his upper femur as well as his knee,” explained Dr. Finn, an orthopedic surgeon at Chicago Center for Orthopedics.

Steve recovered … went on to get married and have children. Two things he thought might never happen. Steve was doing well with the implant, until late last year when he fell and the implant broke. Thirty-three years later, Dr. Finn had another solution for Steve, an upgraded revision with an orthopedic salvage system, or OSS. Dr. Finn removed the old implant and reconstructed the limb with the OSS.

“The fit and feel of his original implant compared to the one he has now is like comparing a Yugo to a Ferrari,” Dr. Finn illustrated.

“I’ve seen him walk before, but not this way. It was smooth. It was like a normal person walking almost. And it brought tears to my eyes,” Cheli shared.

Cheli’s looking forward to the future when her husband can walk their daughter down the aisle. For now, Steve is happy to be here and still be on his feet.

“I think it’s the biggest gift anybody could give,” Steve expressed.

Dr. Finn says Steve’s original implant lasted 15 or 20 years longer than anticipated. Most of the early limb implants became worn or failed before 15 years. The new OSS device should last for the rest of Steve’s life.

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