This article that appeared in The Mail today is by the surgeon who has changed my life Niall Kirkpatrick, Niall and his team have performed some very invasive surgery on my disfigured face over the past 5 years and given me back facial symmetry that I thought would never be possible, they have made me feel so much better and able to show my face instead of hiding one side of it and feeling unaccepted ... I am truly grateful to them for this and they still have work to do on my eye area .... so lucky to have them working on me I trust them so much! Facing The World are a fantastic charity to I will tell you more about them in my next blog. Read on ....
Plastic surgery is not just vanity - it can rebuild children's livesBy Niall Kirkpatrick
As a plastic surgeon, I realise that the term ‘deformed’ is subjective. I often perform nose jobs, facelifts or breast enlargements on patients who, to most onlookers, were perfectly fine in the first place.
But a large part of my work involves operating on children and teenagers with severe facial disfigurements - the type that would, and does, draw gasps.
I don’t think either patient has a more valid reason for wanting surgery. It’s how we feel about the way we look that matters.
Jessica from Columbia suffered from a growth that was so large that she lost an eye. Doctors from Facing the World saved her life and transformed her face
Craniofacial surgery as a separate field is relatively new, yet within the 40 years it has existed, there have been fantastic advances. It requires specialists in plastic, brain, ear nose and throat, maxillofacial and ophthalmic surgery to pool their knowledge and operate together to treat unique complications that have arisen from abnormal growths or diseases that affect the head.
In recent years computer scanning teamed with a technique called stereolithic modelling has revolutionised our work. We are able to map the entire face, skull and brain; make perfect models of an individual’s skull prior to surgery and even produce precise plastic replicas of any bone that might need to be replaced.
Fat grafting has also improved our work, because we can inject fat from other parts of the body into the face to reconstruct features that might have previously been hollow or misshapen.
This now means that severe deformities such as encephaloceles, where the brain protrudes through holes in the skull; facial clefts causing an entire face to split; and syndromes that prevents the skull growing properly are not necessarily the dangerous, life-long problems they once were presumed to be.
Whilst it might not be possible to make the face look perfect, our country provides some of the best treatment available. Sadly, children in other countries - such as Africa, Asia and South America - are not as fortunate.
In many cases these boys and girls are mercilessly teased or in the worst cases ostracised from their community, understood to be sub-human and not worthy of human affection.
Facing the World, a charity I helped to establish ten years ago, is doing its best to help these children, both by sending our experts abroad and by bringing children to UK for treatment.
We treat roughly 12 children a year in the UK, the majority of them at the Chelsea and Westminster or the Cromwell Hospital in London. Each child costs the charity around £60,000 because we provide treatment, intensive care, accommodation and even education for the child whilst they are in the country.
More recently we have started to raise money to fund the construction of craniofacial centres in countries lacking the money to do so.
Four years ago we treated a 15 year old girl called Jessica from Colombia. She was suffering with neurofibromatosis, a disease causing an overgrowth of tissue in the brain that pushes down into the head and face.
The growth was so large that she had lost an eye and the right side of her face was incredibly swollen. The brain had pushed out through the eye socket and into the face.
Local doctors thought that she would die of a brain haemorrhage. The teenager I met was acutely shy and very frightened. But after several operations over a course of two years, Facing The World surgeons were able to remove the growth and make her face more symmetrical.
Since then, she has grown into an incredibly confident young woman. She has even trained as a beautician and is in the process of opening her own salon back in Colombia.
The results of the surgery were good but the most important things is that she says she now feels pretty. I believe our skills should be used to allow everyone to feel comfortable in their own skin.
Facing the World depends on generosity from the public, to donate please visit www.facingtheworld.net