It was an operation of unprecedented ambition, one that salvaged the life of a completely paralyzed patient and made a national star of 37-year-old wunderkind spine specialist Dr. Charles C. Edwards. In July 1979, the University of Maryland Hospital surgeon sliced into the back of 33-year-old Baltimore housewife Jessie Thomas and dredged out a cantaloupe-size malignant tumor and three and a half vertebrae. The patient, her lower back a boneless accordion, lay immobilized for nearly two months. On August 31, Dr. Edwards returned to the operating room with a metal-and-plastic spine replacement of his own design. He hoped to bridge Thomas's missing vertebrae so she could sit in a wheelchair. After 17 hours of metal rods, screws, and wire mesh being implanted — and a three-month recovery — Thomas arrived home just in... More >>>