AMS Spring 2023

Teacher, Model, Artist Survives Deadly Fall, Skull Rebuilt with Metal 3D Printing

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Francesca Burr enjoyed modeling before her accident

Francesca Burr is still in recovery from a serious fall that happened almost a year ago. The young primary school teacher, artist, and model—now 28 years old—fell down a flight of stairs at her family home while having a seizure and suffered multiple skull fractures, a cracked jaw, and a broken nose.

“It looked like something out of CSI,” Burr said. “My mum and step-dad came home from a meal on Friday night to find they couldn’t open the front door because I was blocking it.

“All they could hear was the dog barking and then they saw all that blood. I was flown to hospital and they told my parents to prepare for the worst. It seemed unlikely that I would be surviving it.”

The seizures are thought to be a symptom of multiple conditions Burr has due to Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS). Unstable joints and problems with balance are common symptoms, but the seizures were a relatively new development.

Burr was taken from her parents’ home by helicopter, and transported to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge. The initial prognosis was not good as she was placed into a coma due to bleeding in her brain. Afterward, doctors scraped shattered bone from her brain in a seven-hour procedure.

Francesca Burr with her mother in hospital after the accident

Burr has suffered from partial amnesia, unable to remember her new beau, life events such as the divorce of her parents, or even her own middle name. Ten months later, she is still in recovery. Surgeons have used 3D printing to rebuild her skull, which Burr says was like a transformation ‘from Frankenstein to Robogirl.’

“Before the operation [I] looked like a cartoon character because my head was so swollen,” she said. “So they shaved my head and peeled back my skin to take out all the broken skull.

“I was in a coma for nearly a month and my brother said I looked like Frankenstein, which is quite funny considering I’m Francesca. They kept me like that until around the last week of January when they thought it was manageable, then I came round and they reduced the drugs.”

In February, the surgeons fitted a 3D printed titanium plate for Francesca’s skull. She was considerably impressed with the technology—and rightly so!

“They got a 3D printer to create a titanium plate to fit in my head – I mean, that’s some real James Bond s***. I was amazed when they told me that,” said Burr.

“I actually met the neurosurgeon a few weeks ago and he shook my hand – what a good bloke, he shook my hand. Can you believe that? He saved my life and then he shook my hand. I won’t ever be the same because my brain has had to change and is held together with metal pins, but I am so lucky that I have such incredible friends and family.

Burr is still recovering, which has been and remains a long road, but definitely sees herself going back to teaching and working as a tattoo artist.

While a 3D printed skull implant is certainly rare, Francesca’s is not the first. We have previously also followed cases where surgeons were able to save a baby’s life with a titanium implant made of several pieces, create a 3D printed skull plate for another woman who had a bad accident, as well as 3D printing a PEEK skull implant for a man in New Jersey recently.

Discuss this article and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

[Source: Daily Mirror / Images: Francesca Burr/Daily Mirror]

 

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