In many ways, Sam Blakemore is a typical, active 10-year-old boy. He loves to throw hoops on the basketball court, swim in the pool with his friends and play HALO and Modern Warfare on Xbox. But Sam has a special spirit. He has overcome more trials and tribulations than the average kid, but his inner strength and lighthearted attitude are what helped him persevere.
Sam was 7 years old when he experienced pain in his upper thigh after jumping off a wall in his driveway during a game of tag. His parents, Angie and Timothy Blakemore, chalked it up to a pulled muscle, but after a week of persistent pain, they took him to their local family doctor in Gainesville. The pediatrician quickly identified a large mass on Sam’s femur, and immediately referred him to Shands at the University of Florida.
He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor in his upper thigh. After 10 weeks of chemotherapy followed by surgery to remove the tumor, Sam underwent a rare surgery called rotationplasty, or the Van Ness procedure, in which the tumor is removed and the remaining limb below the cancerous portion is rotated 180 degrees and reattached, with the ankle acting as the knee.
“We decided on the Van Ness procedure so that Sam could continue playing basketball,” said Angie. “We knew with this option, he would be able to run and play sports like he always has.”
Mark T. Scarborough, MD, and C. Parker Gibbs, MD, performed the surgery in September 2009 at Shands at UF. In January 2010, Sam received a prosthetic.
Today Sam is as active as he has ever been. Since the procedure, he has played two seasons of basketball. He also swims, skateboards, roller skates, bikes and longboards.
“We are just so grateful,” said Angie. “We were lucky enough to have such an awesome hospital right here in our backyard to help us through the past few years.”