A CHINLEY teenager who had a metal rod put in his chest by surgeons to stop it growing inwards has told how the operation changed his life.
Sean Chamberlain went under the knife three years ago after he noticed his torso curving into his body and became self-conscious about his looks.
His condition, known as pectus excavatum, is not always treated with surgery as it can be considered a cosmetic procedure.
But surgeons at The Children’s Hospital, Sheffield, do around 14 such operations a year for teenagers and are flying the flag for the surgery, claiming it can make a huge difference to young people’s lives.
Seventeen-year-old Sean, who had the bar in for two and a half years and has just had it removed, said: “It’s changed my life and I’d recommend the operation to anyone who feels self-conscious about their chest.
“It was making me self conscious at school because a few people noticed it in the changing rooms when I got to year nine.
“But since I’ve had the op done it’s pushed my chest out and given me my self confidence back.”
Pectus excavatum is a condition patients are born with and gets worse during teenage years. It can have an affect on the heart, lungs and chest and back.
A curved strong stainless steel or titanium bar is inserted behind the breastbone under vision by telescope and fixed to the chest wall using only small incisions under the arms.
Sean, who is studying at Manchester College to become a Shakespearian actor, was warned of the pain and given research homework to understand the risks before committing to the surgery.
Mr Sean Marven, a consultant paediatric surgeon at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust who did the operation, said: “It’s great we’ve been able to help Sean change his life for the better with this operation.
“We always look at each case on its merit and have long discussions with the family, parents and child before we enter into anything. Although this is sometimes thought of as being a cosmetic procedure, it can also be very important for young people psychologically as well as physically.
“There are varying levels of this condition and only the severe cases are considered for surgery but it’s important this can be done on the NHS for that small number of children who need it – it makes a big difference.”
Sean’s mum Fran Blyth, 50, added: “He was getting symptoms where he was short of breath and more than anything else he was really down about it and really upset. It was affecting him psychologically.
“I looked for any ways other than surgery to help him but really there weren’t any and then it was up to Sean to decide but he was very certain about what he wanted.
”He’s a bright lad and we’re very proud of his acting. Because of this he’s got more confidence in himself and his own body.”
The operation takes just three hours and the bar is left in for as long as possible before the child stops growing. Once removed in a short 40 minute operation the chest remains in shape for the rest of the child’s life.
Sean added: “When Mr Marven told me about it I did feel a bit scared but he made me feel I was in safe hands and he’s done it lots of times.
“I had to learn to walk again afterwards but after four days I could get up. I was only in hospital for a week and everything I went through was worth it.”