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Girl’s life saved after part of skull stored in her stomach

Rare surgery was last option to save teenager’s life after other options failed

Jane Dalton
Thursday 02 March 2023 15:41 GMT

A teenager’s life was saved by pioneering surgery in which part of her skull was removed and stored in her stomach.

Chelsey Smith, from Newarthill in North Lanarkshire, was left with life-threatening injuries after a road accident in February last year when she was 15.

Doctors said the procedure was rare but gave her the best chance of surviving her injuries – and her recovery has been remarkable.

Chelsey was initially taken to the University Hospital in Wishaw but was transferred to the paediatric major trauma centre in Glasgow for specialist treatment.

There, consultant paediatric neurosurgeon Roddy O’Kane removed part of her skull to reduce swelling in the brain and stored it in her stomach to keep it sterile.

Chelsey, who was guest of honour at an event at the trauma centre, said: “I just can’t thank all of the team here at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow enough for everything they have done for me: they have saved my life and given me my life back, too.

“I don’t remember much about the day of the accident, but I’m here now and that’s what matters.

“I have had so much support from Roddy, my major trauma co-ordinator Lynsay Stewart, all of the staff at the hospital and of course my family.

“Roddy was able to magically take a part of my skull and put it in my stomach to let the swelling reduce in my brain. I don’t really know how it works but it’s amazing.

“It was a long journey and I would tell anyone who is in a similar situation to keep going. To make this recovery you have to be mentally prepared for it too, and thankfully I had so many positive people around me to help with that.”

The teenager, now 16, has been able to go back to school and is preparing for exams. She hopes to study accountancy.

Chelsey Smith shortly after her operation (PA)

“Obviously everything that happened was not good, but thanks to the Royal Hospital for Children team in Glasgow I have been able to get back to school and have also started a part-time job,” she said.

“I just want to say thank you again to everyone for all they have done for me. Even after my follow-up appointments are finished, I’ll keep coming back to visit. I have missed them all.”

After other interventions failed, the surgery was the last option to save Chelsey’s life.

Mr O’Kane said: “This procedure is not something that we do every day but it gave Chelsey the best chance of surviving the injuries she had sustained during the accident.

“We take part of the skull out and store it in the stomach in order to keep it sterile. This is usually re-attached after a couple of months once swelling has reduced.

“Chelsey’s recovery is absolutely remarkable – based on her condition when she arrived, it is incredible to see how well she is doing.

“There was a real danger to her life and we also anticipated that there would be more of lasting impact on her life.

“We are all so proud of Chelsey and all of the hard work she has put in during her rehab with our specialist teams. We’re delighted for her and her family and were all beaming from ear to ear when we got to see her again today.”

Additional reporting by PA

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