As It Happens

Girl whose leg was amputated and reattached backwards hopes to dance again

Cancer patient Amelia Eldred, 7, has undergone a rare medical procedure called rotationplasty that should help her dance and perform gymnastics again.

Amelia Eldred, 7, underwent a rare surgical procedure to get rid of a cancerous tumour in her femur

Seven-year-old Amelia Eldred had a rare surgery called rotationplasty. Her entire leg was amputated and the lower part was re-attached backwards at the hip. (Submitted by Michelle Yardley-Eldred)
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Amelia Eldred's left leg is half its original size and her foot points in the wrong direction.

The seven-year-old cancer patient had a rare medical procedure called a rotationplasty, which doctors say will allow her to dance, ride a bike and perform gymnastics again after having her left leg amputated 

"It feels different, but not different," the Tamworth, England, girl told As It Happens host Carol Off. "It's hard to explain." 

How does it work?

In August 2017, Amelia was diagnosed with an osteosarcoma, a cancerous bone tumour, in her left femur.

After several rounds of chemotherapy failed to shrink the tumour, she had her entire leg amputated. 

Then doctors at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital suggested a rotationplasty — re-attaching the bottom part of her leg to her body at the hip, but backward.

The idea is to eventually fit her foot into a prosthetic lower leg and use her own ankle bone as a knee joint.

The limb was rotated because the ankle flexes in the opposite direction of the knee.

"It was just the best solution we saw," Amelia's mother, Michelle Yardley-Eldred, told Off.

"She can't wait to be able to be out there again doing gymnastics, acrobatics, riding a bike, climbing."

Previous successes 

The procedure is rare, but not unheard of.

Gabi Shull of Warrensburg, Mo., underwent a rotationplasty when she was nine years old after doctors discovered a tumour in her knee.

Now 16, Gabi is a ballerina with the Synergy Dance Academy.

Amelia and her mom Michelle Yardley-Eldred, shown before the surgery. (Submitted by Michelle Yardley-Eldred)

Before the surgery, Amelia's parents showed her videos of Gabi trying on different prosthetics for different sports.

"As soon as she saw that video she literally said, 'Wow, that was amazing.' She wanted to be like Gabi," her mom said.

"She dances like me and then one day I'll be able to do that like her," Amelia said.

Retraining her brain 

But first, she needs to learn how to use her newly shaped limb.

"At the moment she's retraining her brain to move the foot in the direction she wants," Yardley-Eldred said. 

"She's trying to move it to the left, but because the brain is used to her foot being the other way around, instead of going left now it's going right."

"It's weird," Amelia said. 

Amelia rocks a superhero costume as she learns to use her newly shaped limb. (Submitted by Michelle Yardley-Eldred)

But the seven-year-old has been brave and optimistic throughout.

"She was the perfect patient to have this procedure," Amelia's surgeon, Dr. Lee Jeys, said in a Royal Orthopaedic Hospital press release.

"She has shown real bravery and confidence in showing off her leg, even though it looks a bit different. I'm glad that she'll be able to continue doing all the things a normal child can do including sports and dancing."

Her mom says Amelia can't wait.

"She was a very active child, so to be able to do all that again would be amazing."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Amelia Eldred and Michelle Yardley-Eldred produced by Mary Newman.

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