Boy beats cancer with help from doctor’s creative twist of a knee

CHICAGO -- The creativity of one doctor turned a leg backwards to put a life on the right path and helped an active young boy beat cancer.

11-year-old Jamari Sanders loves sports.

“Mostly basketball, but football too. Shooting around and dribbling,” he said.

And he does it all on a reconstructed leg and prosthetic.

“I pretty much can do everything,” Jamari said.

Intense pain was the first sign of trouble and it started when Jamari was 8-years-old.

“I couldn’t walk,” he said.

Dr. Matthew Colman, orthopedic oncologist at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, found osteosarcoma. The rare bone tumor was in Jamari’s thigh, just above his knee joint. He had chemotherapy then surgery to remove the cancer.

“In order to cure him of his cancer, we had to remove this whole section of the bone,” Dr. Colman said. “That leaves a big gap.”

In an adult, the problem would be addressed with an enhanced knee replacement, but in a child who is still growing, like Jamari, it’s not that simple.

“An 8-year-old kid has about eight years of growth left, and so any metal prosthesis or knee replacement we put in an 8-year-old quickly becomes obsolete as the kid continues to grow,” Dr. Colman said. “A young child that goes through a knee replacement invariably is looking at multiple operations and possible complications.”

So Dr. Colman presented another option; a procedure called a rotationplasty.

“What happens in a rotationplasty is we remove the tumor from the end of the thigh bone. So if we take the ankle joint and reverse it in space by spinning it 180 degrees, it almost resembles a knee joint,” Dr. Colman said. “And we essentially connect the shin bone back up to the thigh bone.”

Jamari’s heel bone is now his new knee cap. Around back, his foot is needed for the ankle joint to work properly and it serves as an attachment point for the prosthesis.

The procedure is rare, but after careful consideration, Jamari’s mother Sharenne Shumate knew it would be the right choice for her active young son

“I feel like that was the best surgery I could have ever done for him in that moment,” Shumate said. “To make a decision for his life going forward. It’s amazing, it’s unbelievable and here we have an ankle turned into a knee. Wow, who does that?”

“I can play sports good, too. It’s pretty much getting the hang of trying to run,” Jamari said.

“To have him be so functional and get to do the things he wants to do, we’re extremely happy and we’re living every day out there on the court with him,” Dr. Colman said.

Dr. Colman has performed a few of these procedures in his career since the cancer is so rare and the option so unique.

For more information about Dr Colman and Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, check out Rushortho.com or call 877-MD-BONES.

The other members of Jamari’s care team are: Dr. Monica Kogan, pediatric orthopedic surgeon, Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush; Patti Piasecki, NP, Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush; and Dr. Paul Kent, pediatric hematology-oncology specialist at Rush University Medical Center.