A cancer patient had part of her leg removed so it could be treated at a different hospital – to save it from being amputated in an op she said was ‘like science fiction’.
Gran Jan Ritson, 71, began suffering extreme pain in her lower back during the lockdown but was unable to get an appointment.
She had breast cancer twice before and after receiving a diagnosis of a malignant tumour on her left tibia – the shin bone – during lockdown, and the simplest procedure would have been to amputate the leg.
But instead sprightly Mrs Ritson underwent a 12-hour procedure that involved part of the bone in her lower leg being removed, transported to another hospital and treated with radiation and then re-attached, all while she was under anaesthetic.
During surgery in August, an eight inch section of Mrs Ritson’s tibia was removed at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, and sent on a 20-minute journey to the Beatson Cancer Centre in a sterile container.
After two hours of treatment with extra-corporeal (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 Mrs Ritson’s fibula was used to bring the tibia back to life.
Mrs 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 Mrs 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.
He was happy to operate on Mrs Ritson as she is fit and healthy, despite her age.
She began experiencing pain in her back in April but was given painkillers for sciatica which failed to work.
Gran-of-one Mrs Ritson said: “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. 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.”
She is hoping to get back to golfing soon, and hopes to be out in her garden in Stewarton, East Ayrshire.
Mrs Ritson said: “I’ve had cancer diagnoses twice in the past and I knew I couldn’t just live with it so I knew something needed to be done, whatever that was.
“I researched Mr Mahendra and was quite happy to put my leg in his hands, as it were, and just get on with the operation.
“It was a little bit daunting, I have to say, knowing that if the operation hadn’t worked out that it would mean an amputation.
“That really worried me, but I got my head round it and accepted that’s what it was going to be.
“It’s absolutely mind-blowing what they have achieved.
“I was in very, very good hands and just wanted to get on with it to get this tumour out of my leg.
“Now that it’s done I feel wonderful and I’m now in the healing process where I have to do a good job too to make me better and whole, maybe get back to some golf at some point hopefully.
“Everything is healing well and going according to plan.
“Before the operation I hadn’t been able to do much like gardening or anything so just getting back to normal life and not being wheeled about in a chair would be just magic, wonderful.”
Mr Mahendra said: “The patient is doing really well so far and is very grateful the cancer is out.
“She is healing well but has a long road ahead and remains under regular follow-up.”