Girl thanks medics after life-saving surgery saw part of skull stored in stomach

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A teenager whose life was saved through pioneering surgery which involved part of her skull being removed and stored in her stomach has thanked staff at a children’s hospital.

Chelsey Smith, from Newarthill in North Lanarkshire, was left with life-threatening injuries after a road accident in February 2022 when she was 15.

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

Part of her skull was removed to reduce swelling in the brain and then stored in her stomach to keep it sterile.

Chelsey following surgery which saw part of her skull stored in her stomach (Chelsey Smith/PA)

Chelsey has now made a “remarkable recovery” and was a guest of honour at the trauma centre’s training day this week.

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

“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.”

The procedure which Mr O’Kane carried out is uncommon, but after other interventions were unsuccessful, it 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.”

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