Belize girl treated for bone cancer in N.C.
Posted October 29, 2008 5:45 p.m. EDT
Updated October 29, 2008 7:19 p.m. EDT
Durham, N.C. — An 8-year-old girl from Belize who suffers from bone cancer is getting medical treatment in North Carolina thanks to a charitable group.
Rashale Arana, of Silkgrass, Belize, is in Charlotte receiving chemotherapy and physical therapy. The Kiwanis Club of Charlotte is paying her expenses.
Rashale was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, last year after she complained of pain in her left leg. Rashale needed surgery and extensive chemotherapy that is not offered in Belize. Kiwanis Club members in Charlotte arranged to bring the girl to Presbyterian Hospital.
“We think every child deserves a chance and those that have critically ill diseases may not get that chance,” Mecklenburg Kiwanis Club past president Gerald Baysden said.
To save her life, surgeons planned to remove Rashale's entire leg up to the hip. Instead, her surgeon decided to contact Duke University Medical Center, where they could save more than half her leg.
“Of course, we didn't even have to think about it. I told her the story and she jumped off the bed,” Rashale’s mother, Reba Arana, said.
The procedure, called rotationplasty, allows doctors to “use the ankle and the leg which would otherwise be wasted,” Dr. Brian Brigman, a Duke orthopedic surgeon, said. It involves reattaching nerves and muscles so that the ankle and heel of the foot can move like a knee.
Before Brigman performed the surgery on her, Rashale did the surgery on a doll.
“We cut out the bad part of the leg,” Rashale said.
In the procedure, the ankle and foot are turned around so that the heel becomes the knee. The surgery made it possible for Rashale to one day wear a special below-the-knee prosthetic leg.
The hope of one day being able to do just about everything she could do before helped make getting through the surgery much easier, Reba Arana said.
“Rashale did excellent. She was a smiling girl all the way,” her mother said.
While in Charlotte, Rashale will be fitted with a prosthetic leg. She will not be able to return home until at least mid-2009.
Only about 10 rotationplasties are done in the United States every year. About 20 to 30 surgeons in the country are trained to do it. Duke surgeons average less than one rotationplasty per year.