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...

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