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First US Funny Bone Transplant Saves Girl from Amputation

Courtesy Heidi Kaldenberg(WOODWARD, Iowa) -- Young Josalyn Kaldenberg and her bionic funny bone have everyone smiling.

This April, the Iowa 8-year-old became the first kid in the U.S. to receive an expandable humerus bone replacement -- a landmark procedure that saved her arm from amputation.

Just a few months ago, it seemed inevitable that Kaldenberg would lose her arm to the cancer that had invaded the bones of her upper arm, elbow, and shoulder.  Thanks to the first-of-its-kind funny bone replacement, however, she is now back coloring, writing, and playing the piano at her Woodward, Iowa home.

"I like my new arm a lot," says Kaldenberg, who is fiercely proud of the 12-inch scar that now graces her upper arm.

The only downside, the family jokes, is that Josalyn has to get patted down at the airport as her bionic bone sets off the metal detectors.

Josalyn's new funny bone has prompted plenty of jokes, but the laughter comes more from relief than the quality of the punchline.  The six months before the surgery was a scary time for Kaldenberg and her parents as they were days away from doctors having to amputate the arm at the shoulder.

The home schooled third grader was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in November, a rare bone cancer that affects only a few hundred kids each year.

The cancerous tumor takes over the long bones of the arms or legs, destroying the bone tissue and spreading throughout the body.  Decades ago, the only treatment was swift amputation of the limb, but even then the prognosis was poor.  With a combination of chemotherapy and artificial or cadaver bone transplant, saving the limbs later became possible, but it was rare in children, whose bones are still growing.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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