Bone Recipient Heads to Rose Parade  |  October 26, 2012

Salmon fishing in Alaska, traveling throughout the country and even sky diving are all activities enjoyed today by Joe.  When Joe talks about his active life, it’s hard to tell that less than a year ago, he was at risk of losing his arm.

“I was helping friends with yard work in Arizona when I noticed a pain in my arm,” said Joe.  “At the time, I thought I had pulled something.”

Joe went about his daily life until the pain grew so bad, he could no longer lift his arm higher than his waist. Thinking he had a torn rotator cuff, he went to his personal doctor for x-rays.

After the doctor took the x-rays he didn’t say much, he simply told me things were likely a lot more serious than we had thought,” said Joe.

Joe’s doctor referred to an orthopedist, who then referred him to Dr. Cynthia Kelly with The Denver Clinic for Extremities at Risk, as well as the Limb Preservation Foundation. 

“He told me she was the best around,” said Joe.

After a series of tests and x-rays, Joe was diagnosed with a progressive giant cell tumor on his shoulder.  Shortly thereafter, he went in for surgery to have the tumor removed.  Though the tumor was noncancerous, it was an aggressive tumor that moved rapidly. Just six months after the surgery, Joe was again in pain.  The tumor had returned with a vengeance.

The tumor was not only back, but bigger than ever,” said Joe. 

The tumor now extended from his should to under his arm. This time, he was at risk of losing his arm completely.  For Joe, a self-described “Mr. Fix It,” this news was difficult to take.

Dr. Kelly warned me about the severity of the tumor, but she also had an idea of how we could save my arm,” said Joe.  “She suggested we use donor bone.” 

By replacing a large portion of Joe’s shoulder and upper arm with donor bone, Dr. Kelly was able to save his arm.

I’m still recovering,” said Joe.  “At this point, the function is not where I would like it to be, but, I have my arm!”

Though Joe was informed he had received bone from a donor, it didn’t sink in until months later when he serendipitously met an employee from the Limb Preservation Foundation at a charity golf tournament. 

She told me about AlloSource, the tissue bank that supplied my new bone,” said Joe. 

After the chance meeting, Joe went to tour AlloSource.

That’s when it really sunk in,” said Joe.  “As part of the building tour, they have modules featuring donors. Seeing those donors and reading their stories really made me think about the person who saved my arm, and their family.”

Now, Joe is hoping to get in touch with his donor family and would like to meet them someday.

I would love to thank them,” said Joe. “I know some of them have been through a lot, but if they are willing to hear from me, I would really appreciate the chance to tell them my story and how much they have helped me.”

Joe is now a registered donor.

“I want to pay it forward,” said Joe.  “I want to pass this tremendous gift on to others.”

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