Patient Stories

A Small Miracle

At the beginning of summer, five-year-old Elizabeth, began complaining about an ache in her arm. The big sister of a newborn, Elizabeth’s parents wrote it off to the “typical” behavior of an attention-seeking sibling. But when the pain in her arm started waking her up at night, her parents we knew that this was not typical at all.

Elizabeth’s parents expected to hear that her pain was being caused by a previous injury to her elbow. When she was sent to us for an x-ray at Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, the radiologist insisted she stay. A lesion was found on her upper right humerus.

The next week, Elizabeth’s family met with an oncologist. An MRI was performed and later a biopsy was taken from Elizabeth’s arm. She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma – a form of bone cancer. By Friday, she started chemotherapy. At the beginning of the week, Elizabeth was a healthy little girl. By the end of the week, she had been diagnosed with aggressive cancer that needed to be treated immediately.

The first month was hard on the whole family. The initial chemotherapy treatments made Elizabeth very sick. Elizabeth’s doctor then broke the tough news that this type of cancer kills the bone and that Elizabeth would need to have her arm amputated. The other option was a transplant of a human donor bone that would give Elizabeth the chance to keep her arm and maintain good mobility. Elizabeth’s family was cautioned that it was very uncommon to find a bone from someone as small as Elizabeth. It would have to be a bone that fit with a metal part to forge a perfect fit.

The surgery was a success and Elizabeth’s pain stopped almost immediately after the procedure. It was later that her family learned about the donor that allowed Elizabeth to keep her arm. A 5-year-old girl, just like Elizabeth, lost her life and donated her humerus to help Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is just a little girl but she knows that bones don’t grow on trees. She knows that she had a really tough ‘boo boo’ in her arm and it was scary; but a little girl gave her a huge gift and now she doesn’t hurt anymore. Elizabeth’s family is very thankful to the donor family and to their friends in the tissue donation community. They feel donation is a gift one that Elizabeth and their entire family will honor the rest of their lives.