"I had a hole in my rib and it had gone into my lung." Nancy said radiation, chemotherapy, coupled with incredible doctors helped to save her life from breast cancer 11 years ago. However, the intense treatments took a toll on her body. A scan of her chest and surgery in the spring revealed she had an infection in her lung cavity and in four of her ribs. The scan revealed that one of her ribs had a hole in it.
Nancy said her saving grace was a new procedure that removed her paper thin ribs and made new ones by stem cell therapy.
"There was nothing else to do but to have this done, I never even thought twice about it," Nancy said.
Dr. Arch Miller, a reconstructive and plastic surgeon in Tulsa, replaced four of Nancy's ribs with the new 'neoribs' in May.
Prior to this surgery Dr. Miller had partnered with Tulsa cardiothorasic surgeons and devised a method to implant the stem cells during surgery. The surgeons devised the procedures after their frustration with the inability to treat some difficult cases where patients had lost bone because of cancer or trauma. As part of the procedure, the surgeons use AlloStem, which is adult stem cell strips made from cadaveric adipose or fat tissue. The tissue contain all of the elements necessary to generate new bone growth.
Fox23 spoke with Dr. Miller and Nancy in June, post surgery.
Two months after the surgery and Nancy's post operative scans show that the neorib is turning to bone like it was intended to do. "You see normal bone growing all along the rib cage here," said Dr. Miller.
"I'm in awe to be honest with you," Nancy said she is thrilled with the progress but it is hard to believe that the new procedure is working, "I'm going oh my gosh, there really is ribs there growing."
Originally there were concerns that her body would reject the ribs but Dr. Miller said he is pleased with the progress. In six months time Miller expects the ribs will be hardened. "It it should be rock hard solid just like she was born with her own ribs," Dr. Miller said.
Nancy said she is careful not to fall down or over exert herself but, she is grateful she took that leap of faith in the new procedure.
"I know I'm gonna be fine, I'm going to live to be an old lady," Nancy said.