Hannah Christian

January 2010
Riley Hospital for Children, Indianapolis, Indiana

Our daughter, Hannah, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her right femur at the tender age of six. During her first months of treatment, we were informed that Hannah was a candidate for limb salvage. As the surgery date drew closer we had the opportunity to meet with Hannah’s surgeon, Dr. L. Daniel Wurtz, to discuss the upcoming procedure. Most of our questions were all geared towards limb salvage and the expandable rod. To our shock, Dr. Wurtz said that Hannah was a candidate for limb salvage, but in the form of rotationplasty. We quickly learned that rotationplasty is a procedure that lies in the “gray” area of limb salvage. It is considered a partial amputation, yet defined as limb salvage. Needless to say, we were completely caught off guard and devastated by his recommendation.

After the initial shock wore off, we again met with the surgeon for a more in depth and heart-to-heart conversation. Dr. Wurtz answered all of our questions openly and honestly and insisted that, aside from cosmetically, this surgery was the best option for our daughter. We were told that she would be able to maintain a very active lifestyle and play sports – whereas it would not be recommended with any other type of surgery. We did not have the opportunity to meet with or talk to anyone who had this type of surgery, so we had to make our decision based on facts and recommendations from the surgeon. We just focused on all of the positive aspects with this type of surgery and surrounded ourselves with a positive and accepting support system and didn’t look back.

Prior to the surgery, we discussed what was going to happen in great detail with Hannah. Being so young, it was difficult for her to understand, so we performed a mock surgery on one of her Barbie dolls so that she would know what to expect. We prepared her to the best of our ability. Soon thereafter, the day arrived for Hannah’s surgery.

The surgery lasted nearly six hours and was a complete success. Within an hour, we were able to go back to recovery to visit Hannah. She was completely alert, trying to sit up and was requesting food from anyone who would listen. Within 24 hours the nurses were beginning to move her and her pain medications were being reduced. Hannah remained inpatient for the next five days. Initially Hannah used a wheelchair to get around because her leg was still swollen and tender. Within a couple of weeks, the stitches were removed and Hannah began using her walker more and more frequently. Three months after her surgery, Hannah was finally fitted with a prosthetic leg. Progress seemed slow in the beginning. Hannah’s surgeon did not feel that she needed any type of physical therapy and that she would adapt quickly. Within a couple of months, Hannah began walking without her walker and has been making steady progress since. She walks, gallops, jumps, roller skates, swims and does nearly everything a child of her age would be expected to do.

As parents, we only wanted the best for our child and to this day we have no regrets. For us, rotationplasty was the right decision albeit a difficult one. We are very pleased with the outcome of the surgery and with what Hannah has been able to accomplish since. We have a healthy, happy and physically active daughter. She is strong and confident. Hannah continues to share her story with other children who are battling cancer and/or facing amputation. She’s our little hero!