Leeches save Hitchin woman's breast

LEECHES have saved a woman s breast after reconstructive surgery went wrong. Janice Vincent, a cancer sufferer from Hitchin, has thanked the little blood suckers after they helped to get the blood flowing to her new breast after suffering major complicati

LEECHES have saved a woman's breast after reconstructive surgery went wrong.

Janice Vincent, a cancer sufferer from Hitchin, has thanked the little blood suckers after they helped to get the blood flowing to her new breast after suffering major complications during a 13-hour operation at Lister Hospital. The 51-year-old mum of two told a national newspaper: "My right breast started to turn black. The flesh was dying in front of my eyes. It was one of the most frightening things of my life.

"My first operation was immediately followed by another seven-hour one. In an attempt to restore blood flow, the surgeons took a vein from my right arm and attached it to the new breast, but it didn't work."

She added: "It was terrible. I was drifting in and out of consciousness, but I remember thinking that I would lose my breast again. I could have got septicaemia and died."


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It was then that the learning support assistant, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, was told by her plastic surgeon that leeches were her only hope.

Over the next ten hours leeches were placed in threes on her breast.

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Janice recalled: "They initially looked tiny - like black pieces of string about half-an-inch long.

"But after feeding on my blood for half-an-hour they swelled to the size of small sausages and were bright red with my blood. Once they were full of blood the leeches would simply drop off my body.

"It was surreal. To encourage blood flow the doctors made the room as hot as possible by placing electric heaters either side of my bed.

"The heat was so intense I started to hallucinate. I kept seeing my Get Well Soon cards jumping off the shelf and on to my bed."

As the leeches fed on the wound, their powerful suction started to draw blood back through the tissue - the first time such a procedure had been carried out at the hospital.

Janice added: "They couldn't move because they were so big and fat with blood but it felt pretty weird.

"Watching them at work was incredible. Over the next ten hours, with the help of 30 leeches, my breast slowly turned from black to pink.

"Without the leeches, I would have lost my breast altogether. It's incredible to think such tiny creatures saved me from becoming permanently disfigured.

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