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Seeing is believing; Pioneering Tees clinic changing lives around the UK.

Byline: SARAH JUDD

A LIFE-CHANGING clinic on Teesside has celebrated transforming the appearance of its 250th patient.

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust's birthmark clinic was the first in Western Europe to offer a leading-edge injectable drug treatment for vascular birthmarks.

The clinic sees more than 100 new patients a year, but thanks to the introduction of this pioneering procedure many do not even have to undergo surgery.

The scarless treatment involves injecting bleomycin through the skin into strawberry birthmarks or vascular malformations, where veins, arteries or blood vessels are abnormally formed.

For Tricia Smith, 61, from Stockton, the dramatic results have transformed her life.

Tricia was born with a vascular malformation the size of a pinprick but as she grew up it grew with her, affecting her face and tongue. She said: "I had quite a lot of operations as a child that left me with a lot of scars on my face. I also had laser surgery, but my tongue was never operated on as it was believed to be too dangerous.

"I suffered from sleep apnoea as my airway would get blocked.

"The size of my tongue would also cause me to slur my words so it often sounded as if I was drunk and I would avoid eating out. I was very self-conscious."

Trisha's unusual condition was deemed untreatable before she was referred to the birthmark clinic at Middlesbrough's James Cook University Hospital.

Describing the dramatic results, Tricia said: "It's an absolute miracle. I am much more confident and outgoing now. It's given me a new lease of life."

Little Matthew Bond is a different child thanks to the state-of-the-art treatment.

He developed a deep, cherry-coloured birthmark across his nose just days after he was born, but after three bleomycin injections it has almost disappeared.

Matthew, now 18 months, was referred to the clinic by his Darlington GP.

His birthmark was growing dangerously close to his eye and Matthew had his first injection at just six months old.

His mum, who didn't want to be named, said: "It was not dramatic at first but friends and family started to notice a difference and now people mistake the birthmark for a patch of eczema. The difference is amazing."

Eight-year-old Rosie O'Brien was born with a large swelling on her right leg and knee which left her unable to kneel down and caused her pain.

Her mum Mairi Standaloft, of West Boldon, Tyne and Wear, said: "We were just so lucky that we only had to travel to Middlesbrough. One family we met was travelling all the way from Cornwall for the treatment. She has had about eight injections and they have made a massive improvement."

Reconstructive plastic surgeon Tobian Muir holds specialist clinics for adults and children at James Cook and at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.

Almost half the patients treated are from other areas of the UK.

Results show 93% of patients respond to the injectable drug, with four out of five showing significant improvement.

Mr Muir said: "This treatment can produce life-changing results. But there are many people out there who are not getting the treatment they should because they don't know it's available.

"We've seen people who have been told nothing else can be done for them and the results they have had with this treatment have been significant. The treatment is quite specific and gives a very natural result but best of all patients say they can feel normal again."

CAPTION(S):

GREAT RESULTS: Surgeon Tobian Muir, inset, also helped Rosie O'Brien, left - Tricia Smith, right, from Stockton, whose once-disfigured face and tongue were transformed by specialist bleomycin treatment, which also led to the dramatic improvement, left, for birthmark baby Matthew Bond. His cherry-coloured mark, above left, growing close to his eyes, has now nearly vanished
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Nov 23, 2011
Words:634
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