Specchio dei tempi A bionic leg for Richi
12 November 2021

A bionic leg for Richi

“My dream? Having a bionic leg in order to lead a normal life”. Riccardo Battista, known to all as Richi, with shaved hair due to chemo, a passion for cycling, will turn 21 on November 24th. “For that day I will no longer have the right leg. They’ll amputate it next week. I have a prosthesis but I can’t bend it: the pain is unbearable, and after almost four years of suffering from the tumour that has also spread to the lungs, I can’t take it anymore “.

He says it remarkably calmly: for him it will be a liberation. He is experiencing an ordeal made up of severe diagnoses, surgical interventions, more than fifty chemotherapies, a stem cell transplant, continuous journeys between Sanremo and Pisa to follow endless treatments. And a lot of pain. The news of the amputation, which no child or parent would ever want to hear, came after a lump of flesh came out over the scars. The leg can no longer be saved.

Now Richi plucks up courage for the amputation thinking about his new bionic leg. But 150 thousand euros are needed. His family (father Luigi is a bricklayer, mother Miriam did the cleaning in a shopping centre, but she gave up her job to follow her 12-year-old son and little sister Silvia, who lost many days of school because she had to follow them on trips to hospital). “I feel a burden, I don’t go out with friends anymore: I would have liked to have been a mountain bike coach for children. Now I just hope to be able to walk again and maybe get on a bike”, says Richi.

A swollen knee: it all started with what seemed like a trivial fall from the bicycle. It was April 2018: Richi was 17 and had a passion for downhill bikes. Instead, they were the first symptoms of a highly malignant osteosarcoma. A tumour that disabled the right leg after two complicated grafts (first with donor bone, then with a megaprosthesis) to try to save the leg. Cancer cells have also moved into the lungs. Bad luck made him grow up too fast and now he just wants to go back to living like a boy his age. In almost four years there have been many trips from Sanremo to Pisa, to a specialized centre for bone tumours.

With his mother Miriam always at his side, he doesn’t get discouraged and looks ahead. He has chosen his dream leg. “It’s the Genium X3 – Richi points to it on the screen of his mobile phone and his eyes light up – We hope to be able to buy it: it costs more than one hundred thousand euros, but with the “accessories”, that is the foot, the ankle joint and the part to connect to the leg, the figure increases. If we also add travel, visits and treatments, we arrive at around 150 thousand euros”. Richi lowers his eyes. “We’ll never be able to do it alone”.

Learning of the amputation was a severe blow to the Sanremo family. “We expected it a little – still mum speaking – but you are never ready for these things. The problem arose from the megaprosthesis: it should be replaced, he cannot bend it, even by a few degrees, it hurts night and day. But it cannot be replaced because he no longer has any tissue or muscle. It is important for him to be able to get back on his feet and be able to walk again. Let’s help Richi get back to living like a 20-year-old boy: he has already lost almost 4 years between hospitals, chemotherapy and invasive operations. This amputation will have to be seen by him as a sign of rebirth, although it will not be easy, as he must also keep the nodules in his left lung under control. He has always been a boy full of life: bad luck made him grow up too quickly. But is he always smiling and continues to fight”.

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