Page last updated at 12:20 GMT, Wednesday, 18 June 2008 13:20 UK

Limb surgery stretches leg 23cm

Michael Gays (picture courtesy of Michael Gays)
Michael Gays was born with his right leg twisted backwards

A man who was born with a twisted leg has had his limb stretched by 23cm (9in) after a lifetime of surgery.

Michael Gays, 19, was born with a right leg which was twisted backwards, had no fibula, no ankle and just three toes.

Mr Gays from Brampton, Cambridgeshire, had to have the tibia in his leg broken, pulled apart and stretched.

Doctors at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham have now cut a plaster cast from the student's limb to reveal legs of identical length.

Mr Gays, who is 6ft 1in, suffers from fibular aplasia, where children are born with no fibula. It meant his leg did not grow normally, along with his body.

'Best feeling'

Mr Gays' leg was stretched millimetre-by-millimetre, during 22 operations.

He said: "I'd been waiting for this moment all my life. It's all I would think of when I was fed up and in pain. It was the best feeling in the world."

His parents were told he could either spend his life in a wheelchair or endure a long process of breaking and stretching the limb.

On three occasions - in 1997, 2000 and 2007 - he had the tibia in his right leg broken and pulled apart in one or two places.

His leg was then placed in a metal cage with metal spikes drilled into the bone.

Four times a day Mr Gays turned the screws to pull the bone apart. The bone then knitted together - lengthening as it healed.

Mr Gays' leg in cage (picture courtesy of Michael Gays)
Michael Gays plays golf with a handicap of eight

He also underwent several operations to lengthen tendons, straighten the bone and reconstruct his foot.

The final cage was removed at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, and his leg was put in a plaster cast.

Mr Gays said: "They used a little circular saw to remove the cast. I was so excited. I felt like Forrest Gump running and shedding his braces.

"I wanted to run and jump but I have to take it easy for a few months - until it's properly strong. Then there is nothing I won't do. I can't wait.

"Now I'll be no different from anyone else."

Doctors hope Mr Gays, who plays golf with a handicap of eight, will regain 80% of a normal leg's strength within two months, although he will always have a slight limp.

Mr Gays is due to begin studying business and politics at Aston University, Birmingham, in September.


SEE ALSO
Bionic therapy for leg bones
25 Jul 04 |  Health
Boy has pioneering leg surgery
26 Mar 04 |  Lancashire
Stretching a leg - day by day
28 Jul 01 |  Health

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