A 58-year-old woman who was battling cancer received a new tongue…made from her arm! In October, Joanna Smith noticed an ulcer in her mouth, in which after consulting with doctors, turned out to be cancer. The woman was faced with either surgically removing part of her tongue or succumbing to her illness.
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Doctors stated if they didn’t remove her tongue, she would have no more than 6 months to live. After several tests and options, Smith opted for the removal, and surgeons removed nearly all of her tongue, the glands in her neck and multiple teeth in a 10-hour operation. In order to create a new tongue, doctors decided to cut some skin and muscle from her leg.
Unfortunately, the pieces obtain from her right leg were rejected, which is when her family gave the surgeons permission to try another approach using her arm. According to Smith, despite it being obvious where doctors were forced to take a section of skin, muscle, and vein from her left arm in order to create the new tongue, she praises her doctors for creating something “fantastic”.
“They always said they would be able to replace my tongue with a new one, but it was nerve-racking. There were 29 people involved in the operation. When I woke up I was a bit disoriented but I could talk straight away. It felt like I had something strange in my mouth.”
After her recovery, doctors advised Smith to avoid foods that are too hot to not burn her new tongue and damage any nerves. She is hoping doctors can also replace her teeth but is slowly transition to eating solid foods including potatoes and salmon.
Smith was able to talk as soon as she woke up from surgery, but has no tastebuds. The now cancer-free woman says that although she has to think before she eats now and washes her mouth more frequently to avoid any sickness, she is grateful for the doctors who saved her life…and tongue.