Friday, 13 November 2009

Leeches and Maggots making a comeback

Spiders have always scared the life out of me. I have no idea why, they just do. There are so many different species, but the ones around here have thin long bodies and extremely long legs. There is something in the way they run across the living room that I liken to racehorses. Talk about fast. One thing I know for sure, there are very few small spiders here; maybe it’s because there are fields all around.

Whereas spiders are useless, I say that because I cannot for the life of me think of any use for them, maggots and leeches are extremely useful and have been used in medicine for thousands of years.

Their popularity waned for while during the 1900’s but are making a dramatic comeback as you can see from the following article I came across today.


JANICE VINCENT hates all kinds of creepy crawlies.

So when medics told the cancer sufferer the only way of saving her breast was to have 30 LEECHES stuck to her body, she was terrified.

But the mum-of-two, 51, was out of options after suffering major complications following 13 hours of reconstruction surgery.

After the op, the blood flow to her new right breast was cut off.

Janice, a learning support assistant, said: "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."

By this point Janice, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, had lost so much blood she had to undergo an emergency transfusion.

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."

It was then her consultant, a plastic surgery specialist, said leeches were the last hope of saving her breast.

The blood-sucking creatures, beloved by A-listers such as Demi Moore for extreme detox regimes, have been used in medicine for centuries and can help restore blood flow to dying organs.

But Janice, from Hitchin, Herts, was told this was the first time such a treatment had been conducted in a breast reconstruction procedure at her hospital, The Lister, in Stevenage.

Over the next ten hours leeches were placed in threes on Janice's breast.

She added: "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."

Every hour a nurse placed three leeches on to her breast.

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."

As they fed on the wound, their powerful suction started to draw blood back through the tissue.

Janice added: "Once they were full of blood the leeches would simply drop off my body.

"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."

Marian Gower, manager of Biopharm Leeches - a leech farm in Swansea and the only UK supplier of medical leeches - said: "We send around 25,000 leeches a year to UK hospitals.

"They are commonly used after operations to help reattach severed limbs because they are so efficient at restoring blood circulation.

"They have three jaws with a hundred teeth in each - the jaws move in scissor movements and the teeth slice the skin. At first it feels like being pricked with a pin but the pain soon disappears."

Janice, who is about to celebrate her 30th anniversary with husband Cledwyn, still has to undergo further scar revision therapy on her breast.

But she feels the outcome is far more positive than she ever dared hope for during the bleak hours following her operation.

She said: "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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