Volleyball star excels despite just one working knee

Cameron Smith

At first glance, Langley (Va.) High volleyball star Maureen Marsh looks like a lot of other impressive volleyball players. The junior stands 6-foot-1, starts on the front line of Langley's formidable program, which advanced to Virginia's AAA Northern Region tournament in 2011.

Langley volleyball star Maureen Marsh
Langley volleyball star Maureen Marsh

Yet there's something very different about Marsh than most other front-line volleyball starters: She doesn't have a right knee, the result of limb-salvage surgery following a dire bone cancer diagnosis. According to the Washington Post, Marsh's leg functions with a titanium prosthetic, an artificial joint which is designed to allow Marsh to walk, but not much else.

Maureen Marsh knee prosthetic
Maureen Marsh knee prosthetic

"I was somewhat skeptical when she explained how determined she was to get back to the [athletic] level she was at before," Robert Henshaw, the surgeon who removed and replaced Marsh's knee joint, told the Post. "Generally, patients should have no difficulty walking after the surgery, but to perform a high-functioning athletic sport that requires so much mobility and stress on the knees, it's a rare patient that's able to do that comfortably."

The surgical procedure occurred two years ago, after the Langley athletic trainer noticed a bump on the side of Marsh's leg. That was the start of a long, two-year chemotherapy process that included plenty of sleepless nights at Children's National Medical Center during eight consecutive months of intensive therapy.

It's what happened next that has served as an inspiration for Marsh's teammates, her parents and just about anyone else who has come in contact with the uber-determined teen: She made it back to the volleyball court, and did so after missing only one season.

"She has absolutely defied every limitation that has been put in front of her, in her own quiet, sweet way," Marsh's mother, Carol Phelan-Marsh said. "The doctors said she'd probably never play again, and they're delighted for her to prove them wrong."

Added teammate and classmate Madeline Osburn: "She's been so brave throughout her recovery. She's so determined to come back, and it's really shocking to everyone how fast she's been able to do it. Maureen has a way of bringing the team together, and we're very grateful to have her back."

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