FOSTORIA - A Fostoria teenager whose cancer is in remission is to be a Major League Baseball pitcher's assistant during a fundraiser Saturday.
Dugan Smith, 13, an eighth-grader in Fostoria City Schools, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2008. He has appeared on ESPN's "E:60" program and on Anderson Cooper's show.
While on Cooper's show, Cooper surprised Dugan with a visit by his favorite baseball player, Yankees pitcher and former Cleveland Indian CC Sabathia. Dugan was invited to join Sabathia on his personal team with his family Saturday for his CC Challenge event, a scavenger hunt around New York that is to benefit his PitCCh In Foundation, a non-profit organization supporting inner-city youth.
PHOTO BY JILL GOSCHE
Dugan Smith, a cancer survivor, plays baseball in Fostoria earlier this year.
Dugan is to leave for a five-day trip to New York Friday.
"I'm looking forward to hanging out with CC Sabathia again. ... He's my favorite player," he said.
Dustin Smith, Dugan's dad, said is is proud of Dugan.
"He's doing well," he said.
Amy Miller, Dugan's mother, said Dugan had a large cancerous tumor above his right knee. Radiation doesn't affect osteosarcoma, but Dugan had chemotherapy treatments for a little more than a year, she said.
Joel Mayerson, orthopedic oncologist at Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University, performed Van Nes rotationplasty surgery, which he estimated is done 10 times a year in the United States, three years ago on Dugan's leg.
"Dustin and I had no idea what Dr. Mayerson was talking about when he started talking about this," Miller said.
The end of Dugan's thigh bone and the top part of his shin bone, which make up the knee joint, were removed, and the bottom part of Dugan's leg was turned 180 degrees.
Mayerson put the tibia and femur back together with a plate and screws, sewed muscles and, with help from a plastic surgeon, put blood vessels back together after they had been cut.
"The skin is sewed back together," he said.
The part of Dugan's leg that contained cancer has been abandoned, and while other amputees would put their tibia into a prosthesis, Dugan puts his foot into one.
Mayerson said without surgery, Dugan would have lost his knee joint with an above-knee amputation.
"His foot is now functioning as his knee. ... This surgery makes his ankle function like a knee in a below-knee amputation," he said.
Mayerson said the surgery, which only is performed on children, was a viable option because Dugan wanted to play sports.
He said he thinks Dugan is an amazing and inspirational young man who has gone through a lot. He said Dugan has used his life experiences to make himself stronger and has used his positive attitude to recover and thrive in life.
He said he and Dugan's mom told him recovering was 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical, and Dugan finally bought in to the idea.
"After that, nothing could stop him," he said.
Dugan has played baseball since he's been able to be on a T-ball team. He wore No. 13, pitched and played first base for his team earlier this year.
Amy said it was exciting watching her son play baseball.
"It's a good feeling," she said.
Dugan said he is done with treatment and hasn't had pain, and his leg has been functioning well.
"Two and a half years, I've been cancer-free," he said.