How This Leg Was Saved

A small medical team is helping some of our best warriors return to the fight

Sarah Wilson for TIME

An orthosis designed at San Antonio's Brooke Army Medical Center provides a spring-like motion

In March 2010, David, a U.S. Army special Forces deputy commander in Afghanistan, was injured when a 160-lb. bomb tore through his left leg. Over the next year, he underwent 23 surgeries, mostly to carve out small hunks of dying tissue; in one major procedure, doctors at Walter Reed removed 4 in. of his tibia because of an infection. He endured the painful stretching of the remaining bone, using a vise that, as it expands, pulls the ends of the bone apart. The daily sessions lasted six months, extending his tibia 1 mm a day to get to the point where...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!