'Bionic' gran will be first to undergo titanium operation
Grandmother Linda Edwards is set to make British medical history in a scenario like something from a science fiction film.
The 51-year-old mental health support worker is to become the first woman in Britain to undergo a 3D-printed titanium sternum implant, in a pioneering technique to be carried out in Birmingham.
Linda, who lives on Warrenhurst Road, Fleetwood, will be only the fourth person in the world undergo the space age procedure.
Remarkably, she made initial contact with the man who will oversee the operation, consultant surgeon for thoracic medicine Mr Ehab Bishay, after messaging him on Facebook.
After seeing a TV documentary about Mr Bishay’s work, she eventually tracked him down on social media and was astounded when he replied, telling her that he could help but that she should proceed via her GP – and not Facebook.
The procedure is to be carried out on the NHS, with funding set to be confirmed imminently after a lengthy process, during which time Linda was off work for 10 months.
Linda decided to seek out this state-of-the art operation after a series of medical complications left her own rib cage critically damaged, restricting her everyday life.
Titanium is a lightweight alloy usually used in the aircraft industry and it is incredibly strong – but now its uses wouldn’t be out of place in a Marvel comic.
Linda said: “I will be the first woman in Britain to have this done and fourth person in the world.
“I’m a bit nervous but very excited about it.
“It was out of sheer desperation that I contacted Mr Bishay because the situation with my rib cage was critical, it was getting steadily worse and I couldn’t see a way forward.
“I contacted him on Facebook because I didn’t known how else to reach him.
“He replied after about five days but told me to go through my GP and not to contact him on Facebook again!
“It has not been straightforward trying to get the operation sorted out, but things are now finally coming together.”
Linda, who works at the Harbour mental health facility, has praised her employers for being supportive of her after she had to take almost a year off work with her health difficulties.
Mr Bishay and his team, who are based at Heartland Hospital in Birmingham, will carry out the procedure across the city at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Although titanium implants have been around for several years, the procedure to replace a sternum and ribcage is an ambitious and tricky undertaking.
Linda, who has three grown-up sons, added: “Since I have been ill, my first granddaughter Kiya was born and my hope is to be well enough to fly out and see her and my son Daniel out there.”
Ironically, they live very close to where Linda’s titanium sternum and ribcage are being prepared.
Rachel Brown, Linda’s line manager at The Harbour, who works for the Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said:”We want to do everything we can to support people back to work after a period of ill health.
“We are pleased that we have been able to do this for Linda and that whilst she has had a difficult time with her health, coming back to work has been a positive experience and we are pleased and she felt supported.”