NEW YORK (CBS 2)—Cancer in children is a difficult disease, even though it’s usually curable. Doctors often have to amputate the affected limb, which is most commonly the leg.
CBS 2’s Dr. Gomez reports on how doctors saved one young boy and his leg and foot by reattaching them backwards.
It was on a baseball diamond that Dugan Smith first knew something was wrong with his leg. After sliding into base, his right knee felt unusually stiff and sore.
“That night I looked at his knee and he had three little bumps on his knee that we could actually move around, and we were like, ‘What is that?,” Amy Miller, his mother, said.
It turned out to be a malignant tumor the size of a softball on Dugan’s thigh bone.
After undergoing chemotherapy to kill the cancer, Dugan then underwent a rare and remarkable procedure known as Van Nes Rotationplasty.
“Basically, we take out the entire middle part of the leg and then we take the bottom part of the leg and leave the nerves connected,” Dr. Joel Mayerson of James Cancer Hospital, said. “We reconnect the blood vessels and we turn the leg around backwards.”
By turning Dugan’s leg around, his calf muscle acts as a his thigh and his ankle becomes his knee. Since his bone is alive and well, as Dugan grows, his leg does, too.
His foot, which is now backwards and upside down, fits into a prosthetic lower leg, which lets Dugan walk, play basketball and his favorite sport baseball — much to the delight of his father and coach, Dustin Smith.
“He’s a very upbeat, positive kid, he’s always been that way, he’s always been very competitive,” Smith said. “So, I knew those things would help him.”
Those qualities have helped, not only to get him back in the game but learning what winning is truly all about.
“People can see that just because you have a prosthetic leg doesn’t mean you can’t do it,” Dugan said. “So, I just like to show people that I can do anything that I want to.
Doctors at Ohio State say these procedures are extremely rare, partly because bone cancer only affects about 400 children each year in the U.S.
Dugan says he would love to be the first player to pitch in the Major Leagues after undergoing this type of operation.