A cancer patient had part of her leg removed so it could be treated in a different hospital, in an operation she said was “like science fiction”.
Jan Ritson, 71, began suffering from lower back pain during lockdown but, initially, was unable to get a doctor’s appointment.
A two-time breast cancer survivor, Ritson, from Stewarton, East Ayrshire, soon received the diagnosis that she had a malignant tumour on her left tibia (the shin bone).
Instead of having her leg amputated, Ritson underwent a 12-hour procedure at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, which involved part of the bone in her lower leg being removed, transported to another hospital and treated with radiation, before being sent back to be re-attached, all while she was under anaesthetic.
This procedure would normally have all been done at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, but in April this year the sarcoma service was transferred to the Golden Jubilee, to ensure the service could continue during the coronavirus pandemic.
During the surgery in August, an eight inch section of Ritson’s tibia was removed at the Golden Jubilee and sent on a 20-minute journey to the Beatson Cancer Centre in a sterile container.
After two hours of treatment with extracorporeal (outside the body) irradiation the bone was re-packaged and brought back to the Golden Jubilee where the team was waiting to insert it back into place.
As well as treating the cancer, the radiation effectively killed the bone, meaning it would no longer receive a blood supply, and bone from Ritson’s fibula was used to bring the tibia “back to life”.
Ritson said: "It's like something out of science fiction. It’s absolutely mindblowing what they have achieved.”
The surgery was captured on video and Ritson was able to watch the footage from her hospital bed.
She added: “They showed me the part where they removed the bone and put it into the special box. It was a bit bizarre, an out-of-body experience.”
The surgery was led by consultant orthopaedic surgeon Ashish Mahendra of Glasgow Royal Infirmary, who has used the technique before for a small number of pelvic and hip tumours.
Ritson began experiencing pain in her back in April, but was initially given painkillers for sciatica which failed to work.
“At that time you couldn’t make an appointment with the doctor apart from a telephone appointment and I was given anti-inflammatories for sciatica,” she explained. “After about three weeks I thought, well this is not working.
“I managed to get an osteopath who had just come out of lockdown and he saw me and said this is not sciatica – I would go and get an X-ray. Everything was put into place very quickly thereafter.
“Initially they thought there was no way I could take an operation like that because of my age but that was before I saw Mr Mahendra who was happy to try the operation because I’m fit and healthy.”
Ritson is hoping to get back to golfing soon, and is looking forward to being out in her garden as well.
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