Strange but increasingly common surgery allows patients greater freedoms.
A strange but increasingly common surgery just keeps getting better and better.
Utah doctors recently moved 12-year-old Tim Wright's ankle up to replace his knee, with his foot facing backwards.
Because of Ewing's Sarcoma, a portion of his leg was amputated just above the knee. But to give the boy more mobility, his ankle and foot were moved up and reversed.
The rotated ankle is now Tim's new knee joint.
According to orthopedic surgeon Kevin Jones, young people who've had rotationplasty surgery, as it's called, can flex the foot down.
"It's the same as straightening out the knee. You can bend it back, which is the same as pulling your foot up, and so essentially it comes closer to the typical range of motion that you would have in a knee," he explains.
Tim's dad said at first the thought of the procedure upset his son.
"Honestly, the Monday before surgery, he was really upset," Wright said, "I mean, bringing him to tears. And then he had surgery Tuesday, and by Wednesday afternoon, he told me ‘I'm over it,'" says Cory Wright.
"Over it" because the Wright family -- through considerable research -- knew hundreds of other kids around the globe who have had the same procedure.
Many are playing sports.
Tim is now determined to become active again.
"I'll try moving out every day, more than the previous day -- until I'm back up and running," he says.
7-year-old Echo Hayes had the same surgery last year.
The prosthetic leg she got only five months ago now fits over her natural foot, while the ankle works like a knee.
The prosthesis slides over the reversed foot like a shoe.
Since the skin on the foot is designed for rough wear anyway, the prosthesis maintains a better and more comfortable fit.
Echo is testing the waters with her new anatomy, and soon, so will 12-year-old Tim.
He's been home now for about a week and is getting very accustomed to his knee-ankle joint.
His sense of humor is better than ever.
In fact, he's painted eyes on the cast covering his backward-facing foot.
For now he is on crutches, but in 10 to 14 weeks, Tim will get his prosthetic leg.
"I'm excited. I'm excited to see him go through therapy and put that leg on and get back into sports. It's going to be exciting to see how he faces those challenges and overcomes them," says mom Amber Wright.
Tim is now setting his own goals.
"I want to be as active as I was before, maybe even more," he says.
Tim has seven rounds of chemotherapy left in case any microscopic cancer cells are still floating around.
For now, he's listed under a definition called NED or "No Evidence of Disease."