Patient's ribs replaced with concrete after giant tumour removed
HE calls himself the bionic man – and Marek Barden is certainly living up to that name.
Pioneering Bristol surgeons have rebuilt one side of his body with concrete following the removal of a melon-sized tumour.
Until it was diagnosed Mr Barden, the verger at the Lord Mayor's Chapel, had no idea that the 1.5kg tumour was wrapped around his ribs and pushing against his spleen.
But within five weeks of the discovery, he underwent a six-hour operation to remove the tumour, the lining of his left lung, six ribs and part of his diaphragm.
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A 25cm square cement panel, 3 to 4mm thick, was then installed to replace his ribs. Muscle from his shoulder was used to repair his diaphragm.
Three surgeons took part in the operation – a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, a heart and chest surgeon and a general surgeon.
Mr Barden – who celebrated his 40th birthday while in intensive care following the surgery – first noticed the lump in his side about a year before the operation but had not been particularly concerned about it.
He had an accident while cycling and thought the lump might be related to it.
"I thought maybe I had broken ribs or something and it was only after continued pestering from friends to go to the doctors that I had the MRI scan that led to me being diagnosed with a chondrasarcoma."
Sarcomas affect about one per cent of all cancers and the chondrasarcoma Mr Barden suffered was even rarer.
Mr Barden, of Knowle, said he suffered a little discomfort from the tumour but no real pain.
"There was no major pain," he said. "I have had severe osteoarthritis for most of my life so I am used to pain and tend to ignore it.
"I didn't notice it getting any bigger. It was sticking out a couple of inches from my side and I think it was growing more internally. By the time it came out it was about the size of a melon.
"The tumour had just grown around the whole lot of the rack of the ribs. The danger was that I could have lost my spleen or other internal organs."
Within five weeks of his diagnosis in August Mr Barden, the verger at the Lord Mayor's Chapel, had the six-hour operation to remove the tumour, the lining of his left lung, six ribs and part of his diaphragm. The cement panel measuring about 25cm square was then installed and muscle from his shoulder used to repair his diaphragm.
Three surgeons had to be present for the operation – a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, cardiothoracic (heart and chest) surgeon and a general surgeon.
"It came as a complete shock when I was first diagnosed and was determined to wind everything up as much as I could so if I did disappear everything was organised," Mr Barden said.
"I came into hospital prepared to die, but I'm a fighter and I'm stubborn. When I received an appointment letter for my MRI scan and saw that I had suspected soft tissue sarcoma I looked it up online and it was all doom and gloom and said about six months to live."
Mr Barden said it was the reassurance of clinical nurse specialist Chris Millman that gave him hope he would get through the ordeal.
Plastic and reconstructive surgeon Paul Wilson described the panel that was put into his chest as a plastic mesh with an acrylic cement, which was used to reconstruct the chest wall.
Mr Barden has been left with a scar from his left shoulder down to his stomach.
He said: "I lost a kilo and a half when they removed the tumour and probably got about that much back with the cement panel.
"I can feel it and the little lumps and bumps on it.
"I don't have sensation on that part of my body at all but I have got used to that now.
"I consider myself the bionic man because of my concrete panel.
"It took some getting used to."
It was not Mr Barden's first operation – he had 17 over the course of 14 years as a child due to a condition where benign tumours, called exostoses would occur on his bones.
"The nurses and doctors in intensive care were fantastic. They really know how to look after you at Frenchay. By the time of my birthday the nurses in intensive care had put up decorations around my room."
Mr Barden spent six days in intensive care before being discharged from hospital. He did not require any further treatment.
Mr Barden, whose mother died of cancer 12 years ago, said: "I was extremely lucky, having left it so long to see a doctor and I was lucky that it just pushed my other organs aside as it was growing because otherwise there could have been a lot more complications. And I am lucky that this happened here in Bristol."
Mr Wilson said that Mr Barden's tumour was one of the largest the team at Frenchay had ever seen.
"Marek's tumour was particularly difficult because we had to reconstruct the diaphragm as well as the chest wall."
About ten people are referred to the Frenchay Hospital service every week and roughly three of them go on to be diagnosed with sarcomas after scans and biopsies are carried out.
The congregation of the Lord Mayor's Chapel have donated £500 to the sarcoma unit at Frenchay, which is a specialist unit for patients from Gloucestershire and Somerset.
Another £500 donation has also gone to the Skin Cancer Research Fund (Scarf), which is based at Frenchay, as the chapel's treasurer has been a skin cancer patient at the hospital.
"This is the start of my fundraising for the sarcoma unit for what they did and I am going to do more fundraising for the North Bristol sarcoma unit and also the nurses' fund in intensive care."
Mr Wilson said: "The donation to the North Bristol Sarcoma Fund will help with research, education and equipment."
Mr Barden said: "There should be more research into sarcomas and I will raise more money."