Instead, Dr Wagels suggested a newer implant be used, which would help Brodie regrow his own skull over the wound site.
“My colleagues and I have been experimenting with using 3D printed implants that encourage bone growth by acting as a scaffold which then dissolves away as the bone grows into it,” he said.
“So Brodie and I had a chat about it and rather than just go back to making the same mistake all over again, he was up for doing something a bit more robust.”
Me Ellis said he trusted Dr Wagels to get him through the 11 hour operation.
“When you hear about it it sounds like something out of a science fiction movie where they’re regrowing bone in my head,” he said.
“But it worked, and I can’t speak highly enough of Dr Wagels and everyone who helped me.”
Dr Wagels and his team had previously used a similar technique to regrow the bone in a patient’s leg, however this was the first time such a method has been used to regrow parts of a skull.
“There was some level of anxiety, mostly in me I have to say, Brodie was fine with it,” Dr Wagels said.
“I’m absolutely delighted with how it’s turned out – Brodie’s had no complications, and when we’ve done CT scans you can see new bone starting to form. And what was truly amazing was it was forming not just on the outer surface of the implant, but the inner surface as ell.
“So that was really satisfying, and that was after only six weeks [since the operation].”
People with significant gaps in their skull are often required to wear special helmets in public for their own protection, and often suffer strong headaches due to the difference in pressure on the brain.
Instead, Brodie can now focus on rehabilitation and getting his life back on track after its unexpected detour.
“I’m hoping I’m on the tail end of all this now, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
“It was frustrating for a little while there but you’ve got to play with the cards you’re dealt.”
For his part, Dr Wagels said he believed a big reason the surgery was a success was Brodie’s determination to reclaim his life.
“He is a truly remarkable young man,” he said. “I haven’t met too many like him.”
Stuart Layt covers health, science and technology for the Brisbane Times. He was formerly the Queensland political reporter for AAP.