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Girl’s Bionic Limb Will Grow With Her

October 18, 2012

A Shropshire schoolgirl, who contracted a rare form of cancer, has been fitted with a metal leg bone which will “grow with her” as she gets older.

Hannah Baker, 9, from Clee St Margaret, had the femur in her left leg removed after she was diagnosed with an osteosarcoma tumour in April.

Surgeons at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham, have replaced it with a special titanium rod which is extended by using electromagnetic pulses.

“It will grow with her as she grows up,” said Hannah’s mother, Shim Baker.

“She could potentially have it for up to 20 or 30 years, the only problem will be if Hannah grows too tall for it, then she would need surgery to put a longer one in.”

The titanium implant has motors inside it to allow it to be extended to match the length of Hannah’s healthy leg.

She will have to attend out-patient appointments in the future, where she will place her leg in a special electromagnetic device.

The pulses from that machine moves the motors inside the implant, allowing doctors to extend the length of her leg without performing surgery.

Mrs Baker said: “Before this technology, Hannah would have had to keep going back into hospital for more operations.

“She would’ve had open wounds and the chance of further infection – this means she won’t be spending months in hospital in the future.”

‘Christmas tree’

Hannah discovered she had the tumour after complaining of having an aching leg while doing sports.

The family GP did not know what was wrong with her so sent her for an X-ray at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

“I thought it was growing pains to begin with, or maybe a pulled muscle,” said her father Paul Baker.

“We were so lucky to catch it early because the cancer hadn’t spread anywhere else and if we hadn’t, she could’ve lost her whole leg.”

The X-ray showed a 22cm (8in) section of the femur had been infected by the tumour.

Mrs Baker said: “Her own leg bone was actually the tumour because the cells had laid down wrong and the bone just didn’t form properly.

“When we went for the scan, and they used the dye to highlight where the tumour was, Hannah’s leg lit up like a Christmas tree.”

Hannah has had to undergo a course of high dose chemotherapy and blood transfusions at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Mr Baker said that looking after Hannah and her sister Emily, 11, had become a “round-the-clock job”.

He said he had not been to work at the haulage company he owned since April, and was relying on other family members to run it for him.

“We’re up and down the motorway to hospital to make sure we’re there for Hannah.

“I do all the night shifts in the hospital and Shim does the days. We sometimes only see each other for an hour or so a day.”

‘Fun-filled future’

A report by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) published in October showed that bone cancer affects 380 people in England each year, with more than half of those people under the age of 24.

It also showed the survival rate of just 42% of people had not changed for 25 years.

Mr Baker said that Hannah wanted to help raise awareness of the condition.

“She said to me, I’ve got it and I didn’t know about it,” he said.

“We’ve met children who’ve lost virtually the whole of their leg, we’ve found people with it on their lungs because they’ve been told by doctors that it was growing pains or whatever.

“She doesn’t want other children to suffer like she did.”

Hannah has also given her cancerous femur to science.

“She thought if it helped someone in the same position as her not have to go through such intense treatment, she would donate it,” said Mrs Baker.

Hannah is currently in the middle of a second course of chemotherapy which will continue until Christmas.

“We know life will be different for her, she won’t be able to run and jump and play on trampolines and things like that but we will find other sports that she can do,” said Mrs Baker.

“It’s about giving her a future filled with fun, rather than telling her what she can’t do.”

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