Publish Date: 
Friday, February 24, 2023 - 10:45

Back from the brink: Brisbane man's new lease on life after ACCISS surgery saves him from deadly disease 

Every family gathering, meal, and literally the breath that Brisbane man Jason Jones takes has a whole new meaning to him after oesophageal cancer almost took his life.
In 2021, the civil engineer realised something was terribly wrong after choking on his meal and passing out. 
Jason underwent an urgent endoscopy, revealing he had Stage 3 oesophageal cancer, which has a five-year survival rate of around 30 per cent.
“It’s not lost on me how lucky I am. If it had gone a couple of months, it could’ve quite easily been Stage 4 and been in my liver, lungs,” he emotionally recalls.
Jason’s future looked grim. But it’s exactly the type of case the pioneering Australian Centre for Complex Integrated Surgical Solutions (ACCISS) seek to take on. It took a unique combination of reconstructive procedures by the team at ACCISS to save his life.
ACCISS began four years ago as a joint venture between TRI and Metro South Health. Since then, it has delivered hundreds of medical devices and facilitated a series of groundbreaking procedures: successfully implanting a 3D-printed bone scaffold in a man’s leg to avoid amputation and a 3D-printed skull piece after a horrific motorcycle accident.
Upper gastrointestinal surgeon, Dr Adam Frankel said the ACCISS team then leapt into reconstructing a new oesophagus for Jason to retain as much of his function as possible, so he could eat and breathe normally again.
“Many places in the world would have said to him, ‘you’ll either die from progressive infection and respiratory failure, or the rest of your life will be tube-fed.’ For a 49-year-old guy, both options are bad. That is where ACCISS comes in,” Dr Frankel explained.
Dr Frankel, anaesthetist Dr Phillip Lee, plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr Michael Wagels and cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Chris Cole then collectively worked to perform Jason’s oesophageal reconstruction. It involved refashioning over half of his large intestine (colon) into a new food pipe.
A piece of skin and subcutaneous tissue connected to a blood vessel in his forearm was transplanted to Jason’s neck to patch up a subsequent defect between his oesophagus, colon and in the overlying skin.
Jason adds, “I’m enjoying life. This would not have been possible without all the surgery. If this was 25 years ago, I probably would not have been eating again and been living with a tube. I had my tube out a few months ago.”
These highly complex and sensitive cases that drive the ACCISS team forward have been a catalyst in their evolution from TRI into an in-demand service at the PA Hospital.
“We’re very pleased TRI has believed in our purpose from the outset and are willing to support us,” Dr Wagels said.
“We want to remain a part of it because we’re grateful for the support that TRI has given us. ACCISS is still working in the translational space and if we can be another one of those connections between the hospital and TRI, we’re very happy to do that.”
Dealing with an aggressive cancer diagnosis during the COVID-19 pandemic tested Jason’s resolve in innumerable ways, but through it all he has a newfound gratitude.
“It’s just the things you take for granted, like going to the park, throwing a frisbee with the dog,” he says.
“I’m back at work part-time and I like it because I have a chance to smell the coffee and things don’t bother me anymore.
“I wouldn’t be here if not for the ACCISS team, Dr Frankel, Dr Chris Cole and Dr Wagels and the team that cared for me.
“I always promised my wife I’d take her to Tassie and my great-grandfather used to own a jam factory down there and turned it into a hotel. They’re the things that I couldn’t do for a year.
“It’s giving me my life back.”
ACCISS’s vision is limited only by the problems patients face and the imagination of the clinicians who care for them. The array of skills, expertise, and collaboration available at ACCISS is unique and the team look forward to their next challenge.