Young Grewe undergoes surgery to remove cancer
Posted: 04/22/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Marlys Weaver-Stoesz
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Sam Grewe plays a game on an iPad with his grandmother, Julie Bontrager, during a round of chemotherapy at South Bend Memorial Hospital. Grewe has since had a surgery that removed the cancer from his knee and should eventually allow him to enjoy his usual active lifestyle. (Photo Supplied)
Sam Grewe shows his right leg after undergoing rotationplasty. In a rotationplasty, surgeons remove the center of the leg, then take the ankle and foot, rotates and reattach them to the thigh so that the ankle joint can eventually function like a knee. (Photo Supplied)
$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$Sam Grewe plays a game on an iPad with his grandmother, Julie Bontrager, during a round of chemotherapy at South Bend Memorial Hospital earlier this year. Grewe has since had a surgery that removed the cancer from his knee and should eventually allow him to enjoy his usual active lifestyle.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$
Sam was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his right knee in late December and underwent chemotherapy earlier this year. On April 4, he underwent a rotationplasty at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis and returned home just a few days later.
In a rotationplasty, a surgeon cuts above and below the knee, removing that part of the leg, and then rotating and reconnecting the ankle and foot to the thigh. A prosthesis can be worn to equal the length of the other leg, with the ankle joint now functioning as a knee.
The goal is that the ankle will be reattached at a height that will be level with the other knee by the time the patient is fully grown. The rotated foot will bend in the direction a lower leg would and will be the basis for a prosthetic calf and foot.
Samís doctors are predicting him to reach 6 feet 3 inches from his current 5 feet 10 inches, his mother, Michelle Grewe said.
Michelle said she and husband Randy Grewe chose the rotationplasty because of the size of the cancer and because of new spots doctors found on Samís tibia before the surgery.
The rotationplasty should lead to Sam again enjoying an active lifestyle, while the alternative surgery would have resulted in Samís leg being at risk in even strong waves in water, according to Michelle.
For now, though, Samís days are largely confined to the house, where he often lounges while watching TV, reading, browsing online or undertaking a personal challenge to become super speedy at solving a Rubikís Cube.
ďOne of the big battles for Sam right now, in addition to the obvious ó having your leg sewn on backwards and the chemotherapy and all that ó is just boredom. Heís just so bored,Ē she said. ďHeís used to being able to just get up and go.Ē
Sam had been a seventh grader at Northridge Middle School, active in basketball and football, but is taking the rest of the year off because of frequent hospital visits and the time to recuperate.
Heíll be fit for a prosthetic leg in four weeks, eventually also going to physical therapy to begin strengthening his right leg. Because the doctors donít actually cut the nerves or blood vessels in a rotationplasty, Michelle explained, Sam was able to move the toes on his right foot as soon as the epidural wore off after surgery. He can easily move his toes and ankle, but itís currently a bit more challenging to move them the direction he intends. Because his foot now faces the opposite direction it did, when Sam wants to point his toes right, they turn the way they would have before surgery, which is now to his left. Michelle explained that Sam is working on trying to realign how his brain controls that foot.
This week, heíll begin another round of chemotherapy, this time at Memorial Hospital in South Bend instead of in Indianapolis. Michelle said that the coming chemo is just an added reassurance to be sure the cancer is gone and does not reappear. The family isnít sure how long chemo will last. The Mayo Clinic is examining the new spots doctors found around Samís knee before surgery and the Clinicís analysis will determine if Samís chemo lasts through August or October, with weeks of chemo followed by weeks off.
Sam, his parents and sister Audrey have found some routine through the ever-changing days of the last few months, but new experiences are still ahead. Theyíve gotten to know staff at their usual hospitals and know what to expect as far as Samís reaction to chemotherapy, Michelle said, but now are researching where to have Sam fitted for his prosthetic leg and preparing for physical therapy.
After that, Samís life may return to his more usual days before his cancer diagnosis.
ďBy all accounts,Ē Michelle said, ďhe should be able eventually to do any of that stuff, any of the sports.Ē
ďIt will be a happy day when he doesnít have to use the crutches,Ē she said.
Several people are losing weight as a fundraiser for the Sam Grewe family.
According to Brenda Dwyer, several people, including local pastor Rich Troyer, who is also Samís uncle, will be losing weight from Monday through June 23, with all donations given for their effort going to the Grewe family.