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Doctors Attach Boy's Foot on Backwards to Improve His Life After Cancer

Doctors Attach Boy's Foot on Backwards to Improve His Life After Cancer

Airdate: 05/13/2011

He looks like any teenage American boy, with one extraordinary difference—Dugan Smith's foot is literally backwards.

The 13-year-old wasn't born this way. Doctors deliberately attached his foot backwards during a rare operation to help improve his life.

His mom, Amy, says her son's ordeal began at a baseball game three years ago when he felt a sudden sharp pain in his knee.

"I didn't want to believe it. He could barely walk," said Amy.

An MRI revealed a large tumor that turned out to be osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.

"I was very scared. I thought when you get cancer you're going to die no matter what," said Dugan.

Dr. Joel Mayerson, Director of Musculoskeletal Oncology at the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University, proposed a radical surgical procedure called rotationplasty.

"We take the bottom part of the leg and leave the nerves connected. We reconnect the blood vessels, and we turn the leg around backwards," said Dr. Mayerson.

Instead of amputating almost all of Dugan's leg, his lower leg was fused backwards to his upper thigh. Amazingly, Dugan has full feeling in his foot.

The backward heel of his foot now acts as his knee, giving him flexibility to move his prosthetic limb. He slips the rotated foot into the prosthetic leg, and then this young athlete is ready to play.

"Dugan had his life back," said Amy.

He shoots basketball hoops and rides his bike. But his biggest passion is baseball.

Dugan's dad, Dustin, is also his coach.

"I'm very proud of him," said Dustin.

While some might think having a backwards foot is pretty unusual, Dugan has no regrets about the decision that has put him back on his field of dreams.

"I am the happiest person in the world," said Dugan.

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