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Doctor fixes British woman’s head by partially severing it

September 15, 1997

LONDON (AP) _ A woman with a chronic bone problem who could not raise her head or drink a cup of tea can now do both, thanks to a surgical procedure that entailed nearly detaching her head from her shoulders.

The 17-hour operation on Bridget Fudgell left her head pointing forward, correcting a condition called ankylosing spondylitis, which had caused her head to be stuck pointing down, almost fused to her chest.

``She was virtually a recluse _ she couldn’t look up and couldn’t cross the road,″ said Julie Hendry, a spokeswoman at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, western England, where the operation was performed in February. ``She couldn’t eat or drink properly.″

Although the operation was performed months ago, word got out only last week when Gill wrote a report on the procedure for other neurosurgeons.

Ms. Fudgell’s condition had worsened four years ago when she broke her neck in an accident, causing her head to ``really flop forward,″ Hendry said Sunday.

She had been given little hope from doctors until she met Dr. Steven Gill, a neurosurgeon at Frenchay Hospital. Working from the back of her neck, he completely detached her head from her spinal column, before repositioning and reattaching it, Hendry said.

``At one point, her head was only connected to her shoulders by major arteries and the spinal cord and muscles,″ Hendry said.

The surgeon used screws to put things permanently in place.

Ms. Fudgell can now see in front of herself and eat properly, although Hendry was not able to say whether she will be able move her head.

``When I think of the operation, I’m terrified,″ Ms. Fudgell told The Express, a London tabloid. ``But I have no regrets, though I have got a bit of a numb neck.

``It makes me wonder how I got the courage to go through with it. There’s no doubt it has given me a new lease of life, though.″

After Ms. Fudgell got home, the first thing she did was have a cup of tea, something she’d been unable to do since breaking her neck.

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