A Fleetwood grandmother has become only the third person in Britain to undergo a futuristic space age operation in hospital.
Linda Edwards, a 52-year-old mental health support worker, is recovering after having her damaged ribcage replaced with a lightweight metal one.
The 3D-printed titanium sternum implant procedure was carried out by a pioneering team at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
Linda, who lives on Warrenhurst Road, Fleetwood, is only the sixth person in the world to undergo the procedure, which took place two weeks ago.
She said: "I woke up feeling terrible and at one point I thought I had died, but I am feeling better every day!
"I still feel numb because I am on a lot of drugs, but the main thing is that my ribcage doesn’t keep shifting about.
"Before this operation it was split in two and I could even wiggle it about.
"I had a little bone sticking up which I could twiddle about.
"My main fear was that it would all come undone before I could have the implant done - and I was in pain all the time.
"It feels incredible that I have had an operation as advanced as this."
Linda needed the procedure after developing problems following cardiac treatment more than two years ago, which left her ribcage damaged.
The sternum procedure was carried out on the NHS by a team of top surgeons.
They included Mr Ehab Bishay, consultant thoracic surgeon at University
Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), and a cardiac team led by Mr Stephen Rooney.
Linda, who has three grown-up sons, said: "I feel proud that I am only the sixth person in the world to have this work done.
"The NHS is fantastic and I can’t praise it enough."
And she added: "I work for the NHS, at the Harbour mental health unit in Blackpool, and I can’t praise them enough for the way they have supported me."
Mr Bishay, said: "It’s fantastic to see that Mrs Edwards is doing extraordinarily well given the complexity of the procedure she has undergone.
"That is due in part to the collaborative working of three highly-skilled surgical teams and their focus on improving long-term outcomes for patients by developing its capacity and experience to undertake these highly-complex procedures.
"We have utilised the latest technology to do so."
The cardiac team, led by Mr Stephen Rooney, had to re-open Linda’s chest carefully, avoiding her heart and previous bypass grafts.
Mr Ehab added: "My team and I then removed Mrs Edward’s original breastbone and inserted the custom built prosthesis.
"The plastic surgery team, led by Mr Haitham Khalil, harvested several muscle flaps to cover all the extensive components of the prosthesis, a fundamental step in this operation.
"Fortunately, complications such as those experienced by Mrs Edward’s following previous heart surgery are rare, but are notoriously difficult to manage."
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
Mr Bishay added: "Titanium is such a vital more resistant to infection, lightweight, very tough, and since it is exactly replicates the defect, we feel the patient’s chest anatomy is more accurately restored, possibly leading to better functional and cosmetic outcomes."