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Army Amputee Takes First Steps On Breakthrough Permanent Leg Implant

By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4) - Six weeks after getting a breakthrough permanent leg implant, an Army veteran took his first steps.

It was a big moment for 32-year-old Jace Badia of Georgia. He was eager to walk, even run. But he learned he needs some time to get used to his new leg.

LEG IMPLANT Jace Badia (credit: CBS)
Jace Badia (credit: CBS)

The operation was Feb. 21 at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center. It was Badia's 85th surgery after he lost his left leg in an explosion in Iraq. It was a first for orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ronald Hugate.

"You can see here, Jace, the skin coming up and over," said Hugate while showing Badia his latest X-ray.

LEG IMPLANT Ronald Hugate
Dr. Ronald Hugate (credit: CBS)

Over the last dozen years, Hugate developed the permanent implant with a special porous metal collar. Badia was the first to get it. The rod was inserted into Badia's femur bone. His skin and tissue have grown into the porous metal collar and created a barrier against infection.

"I tell you, Kathy, I could not be happier," Hugate told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh. "You don't want to start the touchdown dance, yet. I'm cautiously optimistic."

Jace Badia is interviewed by CBS4's Kathy Walsh (credit: CBS)

But Badia is an impatient guinea pig. He was eager for a test run. His prosthetic leg was connected directly to the permanent rod. After a few adjustments, he took his first steps.

"What are you thinking?" asked Walsh.

"I'm thinking I overestimated myself, because there is a little bit of pain with each step," said Badia.

Jace Badia leg implant (credit: CBS)

But certified prosthetist Zach Harvey was impressed.

"I was expecting pain. I wasn't expecting Jace to be in this little pain, actually," said Harvey.

Badia came back to Colorado with high hopes.

"I wanted to get in here and I wanted to run immediately," he explained.

Jace Badia (credit: CBS)

But he now realizes he'll need time. He believes the more steps he takes on his new leg, the faster the bone sensitivity will go away.

"Still good to go. I'm just going to have to get used to it," said Badia.

Jace Badia with Dr. Ronald Hugate (credit: CBS)

Badia will be walking with crutches for a while. He estimates it will take 2 to 3 weeks for the pain to go away. He's counting on his new leg changing his life.

Badia was the first, but Gary Molock of Denver was the second person to get Hugate's permanent implant. Molock is a double amputee from a truck collision. He explained he is having some issues with swelling and the tissue growth is slow. But Molock said seeing Badia makes him anxious and ready to try his leg. He's hoping that can happen by the end of May.

Gary Molock
Gary Molock (credit: CBS)

Kathy Walsh is CBS4's Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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