Catching up with Caitlynne: Climb every mountain

rotationplastyCollege student Caitlynne McGaff bounces from one adventure to the next. One weekend, she might be on stage, performing in the Complete Works of Willliam Shakespeare, (abridged) a rapid-fire tromp through the bard’s best works. The next she could be scaling mountains in Maine or jumping into the icy waters of the Atlantic. In December, she spent three weeks in South Africa on a service trip, teaching life skills to disadvantaged high school students.

She’s leading the life she and her parents envisioned in 2001, when Caitlynne, then 8, underwent a rotationplasty. After she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at age 6, Caitlynne was treated with chemotherapy, but eventually it became clear her best chance would be for orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mark Gebhardt to remove her knee.

The McGaffs weighed the pros and cons of two options: replacing the knee with a metal plate or rotationplasty. During rotationplasty the surgeon removes the knee and attaches the shin bone to the thigh, rotating the ankle into place as a new knee. The procedure provides children with a longer leg, making it easier to use a prosthesis and allow patients to play sports and lead active lives.

And Caitlynne has done just that since her surgery. She switched from gymnastics in elementary school to softball in middle school, before finding her niche in theater and show choir in high school.


Now a junior at Boston University, Caitlynne walks the mile-long campus several times a day and is a regular at the campus gym. “I never have any problems with my leg. I’m much too stubborn for that,” she says. “I’d make the same choice [rotationplasty] again.”

Learn more about osteosarcoma.