To witness Lansana Aguste Lapia chase down a soccer ball on nimble feet, one would never guess how much trouble the sport has gotten him into in the past.
Five years ago, when Lansana was just an orphaned little boy in war-torn Sierra Leone, he followed a stray soccer ball into the jungle, where he was bitten on the leg by a venomous snake. Although Lansana's life was spared, the venom infected the tissue around the bone in his lower leg, eating away the fortification of his bone and rendering it useless.
After he was discovered by a missionary two years later and brought to Dr. S. Robert Rozbruch at HSS on an emergency medical visa, there was almost no bone left in his leg and his foot was barely attached by soft tissue.
Rozbruch, the Co-Chief of the Limb Lengthening and Deformity Service at HSS, then began the intensive Ilizarov process of growing bone in Lansana's lower leg, first by slicing off the damaged tips of his tibia, then by attaching pins to a brace around the outside of his leg and slowly drawing each bone section apart while the newly formed bone bridged the gap.
"The Ilizarov method of bone transport and bone lengthening was invaluable in saving this boy's leg," notes Rozbruch. "These techniques, although not new, are the state of the art treatment for osteomyelitis, limb salvage, and limb deformity."
Rather than simply amputating Lansana's leg, as would normally be the practice in underserved regions of the world, Dr. Rozbruch gave Lansana a new leg and a new future. Soon after, Lansana returned to his newly adopted father -- the same missionary who brought him to HSS.
Today, Lansana can run, jump, and play soccer again. Using the natural bone in his leg, which he grew himself (with Dr. Rozbruch's help), he's a well-adjusted young man -- in more ways than one.