By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4) – A wounded veteran and a double amputee from a truck crash are in a Denver hospital recovering from groundbreaking surgery. The two were the first patients ever to get an artificial leg with a porous metal collar permanently implanted.

The implant was designed by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ronald Hugate. If all goes well, the men will eventually be able to attach artificial legs directly to the metal implants.

About 8 a.m., Jace Badia snapped a selfie at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center. He told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh he was looking good and ready to go.

Jace Badia (credit: CBS)

Jace Badia (credit: CBS)

Jace Badia (credit: CBS)

Jace Badia (credit: CBS)

The Army veteran has had 84 surgeries. With this, his 85th, he will make history.

“I just want to be able to play with my kids,” said Badia.

In Iraq, Badia lost a leg in a roadside explosion. After a decade of pain using a prosthetic socket, he is getting a permanent leg implant.

“I’ve got a lot of faith in this team,” said Badia.

Jace Badia (credit: CBS)

Jace Badia (credit: CBS)

The team leader is Hugate. Retired veterinarian Dr. Robert Taylor will be watching in the operating room. In 2005, the two implanted artificial legs in a Siberian Husky named Triumph. The legs were later removed because of infection. Now, Badia is the first human ever to try Hugate’s solution to the problem.

In surgery, a metal rod was inserted into Badia’s femur bone. But it is a porous metal collar that Hugate believes will succeed where other implants have failed. Skin and soft tissue will actually grow into it, creating a barrier against infection. The rod can then be connected to a prosthetic leg.

“It really went off without a hitch,” said Hugate after Badia’s operation.

The scene of Gary Molock's crash (credit: CBS)

The scene of Gary Molock’s crash (credit: Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter Herald )

Next, was Gary Molock, a double amputee from a truck crash. His right leg was to be implanted.

Before leaving for the operating room, his family circled him in prayer. Molock was both nervous and excited.

Gary Molock (credit: CBS)

Gary Molock (credit: CBS)

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“I didn’t want to be the guinea pig, but I can’t continue to sit in my wheelchair all day, every day,” said Molock.

Molock and Badia must wait six weeks before putting weight on their implanted legs. The two are trailblazers, each taking a brave step. They are leading the way for wounded veterans and amputees around the world.

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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