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Filby woman has pioneering surgery

PUBLISHED: 16:55 15 June 2009 | UPDATED: 14:10 03 July 2010

A WOMAN whose head had “dropped off” can walk again after pioneering surgery that has given her a new metal spine.

Brenda Simpson had to be pushed around in a wheelchair because her head had dropped so far forward that she could not walk or see in front of her.

A WOMAN whose head had “dropped off” can walk again after pioneering surgery that has given her a new metal spine.

Brenda Simpson had to be pushed around in a wheelchair because her head had dropped so far forward that she could not walk or see in front of her.

Now she is like a “bionic woman” after nearly £15,000 of titanium rods and screws were put in her spine to keep her head up.

Mrs Simpson, who is 70 and from Filby, near Yarmouth, can now enjoy spending time with her four grandchildren thanks to two lengthy operations at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Surgeon Am Rai said: “Basically, her head dropped off.

“She has got a condition called head-drop, where the muscles at the back of her neck become so weak they cannot support the head.

“From behind she looked a bit like the headless horsewoman. She is almost like a bionic woman now. She has got metal from top to bottom.”

Mrs Simpson, who also has Parkinson's disease, said: “It has made a terrific difference. He has done a marvellous job.

“I could neither walk nor see where I was going. My husband had to push me around in a wheelchair.”

Her neck problems started 18 months ago. At first, she tried wearing special collars to keep her head up, but they either did not work or were too uncomfortable for her to wear.

The surgery was made unusually difficult because her bones were so soft that they could not hold the metal rods.

So, after a first operation which put rods and screws from her neck to between her shoulder blades, she had to have a second operation to reinforce her spine right down to her pelvis.

Her husband John, 69, a pub stock-taker, said it was wonderful that his wife could walk next to him again.

He said: “It has been a colossal difference. Her head was right down as if she was a goat about to butt you.

“From behind you couldn't see her head at all. The pain in her neck was stopping her walking; also, she couldn't see where she was going.

“She is 100pc different to what she was before. Now she is upright. She has grown 3-4in through being straightened up. It certainly is a relief.”

The advanced surgery that Mrs Simpson received has only been possible recently as techniques and materials have become more advanced.

Mr Rai said that, with an ageing population, more people had similar problems but often left seeking help until too late because they did not realise anything could be done.

Patients at the N&N see a team of experts before undergoing any surgery, including a neurologist, physiotherapist and rheumatologist, and they are put in touch with fellow patients so they can share experiences.

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