A little boy lost his leg after surviving cancer has been told that he will be able to walk again after surgeons replaced his knee with his foot.
Austin Degnan, from Illinois, was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, when he was six years old in 2019 after feeling severe pain in his
left leg that persisted for a couple of days.
After his diagnosis, his parents Jon and Carrie, were told the only way to save Austin was to amputate his leg.
The issue was that the leg would have to be amputated above the knee, meaning Austin wouldn’t be able to walk or run around with his friends – because prosthetic legs can only be fitted if there is a knee joint.
But doctors didn’t want that for Austin, now seven, and they promised to do everything they could to help the little boy lead as normal a life as possible after his recovery.
Surgeons made the decision to cut off Austin’s foot and turn his heel into a knee joint, meaning that a prosthetic can be attached at a later date.
Austin’s tumour has now been removed and his foot has been successfully attached to his leg.
‘We never knew something like this would even be possible, it took several explanations from our doctors to understand how it worked,’ says dad Jon.
‘We looked for visuals to know what we could expect and our decision took a lot of thought to make because ultimately we would be changing his appearance for life.
‘When you first see it it’s shocking, even as his parents we catch ourselves looking at him trying to get our head around it.
‘We completely understand that it’s not exactly the most pleasing thing to look at, especially for him, but in the long run it’s going to be so much better for him.
‘He even understands that it looks weird, he likes to threaten to hit me with his “little leg” if I get on his nerves, he has taken it all in his stride and has been the most positive person out of all of us from start to finish.’
Austin’s parents first knew that something was wrong when their little boy was playing outside in 2019. He started to feel severe pain in his left leg, which he had hoped would just wear off – but it didn’t.
When the pain persisted, Jon and Carrie took him to hospital where an x-ray showed an abnormality in his leg that could be cancer.
After further tests, his parents were given the devastating news that Austin had an aggressive form of bone cancer.
‘It was heart-breaking knowing that our son had essentially been on his death bed right under our noses,’ adds Jon.
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‘We were terrified of what might happen to him but we knew we just had to tackle the situation head on and try to get our son better.’
Since his surgery, Austin is now cancer-free and his foot is attached to where his knee used to be, once he has had a prosthetic made it will be attached and his foot will work how his knee used too.
‘He has been the bravest boy in the world and is an example to his older and younger brother, and to us,’ says Jon.
‘Obviously, we would rather he never had cancer and his leg never had to be amputated, but this was the situation we were in and what we have done has worked for us.
‘We told our friends about it, and Austin’s friends too, everyone has been incredibly supportive and we’re just happy that this option was made available to us – we have our son back for good which may not of been the case with another option.’