Friday, 6 December 2013
Medical expertise continues to astound as new procedures are pioneered and trialled and pass into operating theatre repertoire and few areas are so impressive as the art and science of the oft-maligned plastic surgeon. While subcutaneous organ repair and replacement saves lives, the more correctly termed reconstructive surgery preserves dignity. And neither is it new; despite people associating ‘plastic’ with the superficiality of the Swinging Sixties there is documentary evidence of a much more than skin-deep heritage.
In 'plastic' surgery the adjective denotes sculpting or reshaping and derives from the Greek πλαστική (τέχνη), plastikē (tekhnē), “the art of modelling” of malleable flesh. Documentary evidence describes medical treatment for facial injuries being carried out more than 4,000 years ago and physicians in ancient India are known to have used skin grafts for reconstructive work as early as 800 B.C. Of course, as in so many areas, progress was slow and not until the 19th and 20th centuries did techniques truly begin to advance; America's first plastic surgeon of note was Dr. John Peter Mettauer, born in Virginia in 1787. It was he who performed the first cleft palate operation in the New World in 1827 with instruments of his own design.
In medicine as in science and technology, it was war which provided the true motivation for improvement and it was the "War to End All Wars," that propelled plastic surgery into a new and more urgent prominence. Shattered jaws, blown-off noses and lips and gaping skull wounds caused by modern weapons required imaginative restorative procedures. Some of the best medical talent in Britain, France, Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary devoted themselves to restoring the faces and lives of their countrymen during and after the war and modern surgeons have those pioneers to thank for their careers.
I was reminded of all this when I saw the recent graduation photograph of the son of a friend of mine. In the picture, young James stands so proud, grinning out of the frame as he clutches the fake diploma scroll and sports his hired mortar board and gown. But it could have all turned out so differently; James was born prematurely and with no eyelids and he may have faced a life of misery and ridicule had surgeons not acted so decisively.
Still in the incubator and with gauze covering his eyes and keeping them moist, the surgeon elected to try an innovative new therapy utilizing a graft of delicate and flexible foreskin to shape the eyelids themselves with tendons constructed from a medically neutral elastic fibre composite to allow the child to blink. Despite the frail constitution of young James after some long, sleepless nights he began to respond and grew up pretty much as any other child.
Viagra eye drops - make you look hard.
By the time he reached school age the scars were faint and in High School hardly anybody noticed the very slight differences in the shape of his eyes as they began to be obscured by the perfectly natural asymmetry of his face. He is, as his proud parents love to say, a miracle of modern medical science. And they have much to be proud of. Only to those in the know and even then only if you look very closely, can you tell that he is still a cock-eyed little fucker.