Unstoppable Athlete: Sam's Riley Story
To hear 15-year-old Sam Grewe talk about his first freshman basketball season, trainingfor lacrosse and learning how to drive, it’s hard to believe just a year ago, the standout student athlete was learning how to walk again after losing much of his right leg to bone cancer.
Sam was 13 when a pain in his leg led to an unexpected diagnosis: osteosarcoma. The rare, aggressive form of bone cancer would require months of chemotherapy and a partial amputation. The Grewe family made the drive from their small town of Middlebury in northern Indiana to meet with Dr. Lawrence D. Wurtz, an osteo-oncologist at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.
The family originally intended to take the traditional route of having the tumorous part of Sam’s legs replaced with rods. But then they read about rotationplasty, an operation in which the leg below the tumor is rotated and reattached so the ankle functions as a knee joint, allowing the patient to run and jump with a prosthetic.
“Sam said, ‘I want the rotationplasty. I want to continue playing sports,’” mom Michelle recalls. “We asked Dr. Wurtz, ‘Is Sam a candidate for this?’ His face just lit up, and he said, ‘Oh yeah! We can do this!’”
The surgery was successful, and the community rallied in support of Sam. He was even “adopted” by the Notre Dame football team, which invited him to hang out with players and watch from the sidelines every game of their undefeated 2012 season.
After finishing chemotherapy in February 2013, Sam made his school basketball team this past winter and put his new leg through its paces. He is now playing lacrosse and going to football workouts to increase his strength—all while maintaining straight A’s in school.
Michelle Grewe shares this message of gratitude for all who support Riley Hospital: “These children, fighting the fight of their life, need the best the world can offer to help them recover and live happy lives. Thank you for your support.”
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