Friday, 2 November 2007

Unsung: Harold Gillies

The work of surgeon, Harold Gillies, is remembered on the BBC's website. The very graphic images show the physical horrors of war that he struggled to fix. This link is not for people of a nervous disposition. The images come from an exhibition in London, which states:

Surgeon Harold Gillies, posted to France in 1915, quickly realised that the number and severity of facial casualties would be vast, and successfully argued for the establishment of a special ward - ultimately, a specialist hospital - for the treatment of the facially wounded. At the start of the Battle of the Somme, he prepared his team for 200 casualties.  Two thousand arrived.

Gillies’ work was revolutionary, and yet is little remembered.  Most field surgeons, faced with blasted faces, simply stitched together the edges of wounds to stop infection.  As wounds healed and scar tissue contracted, the skin of men’s faces would become twisted and not only disfiguring, but disabling.  Men returned from the horrors of the front terrified to face their loved ones. Gillies’ technique used bones and cartilage to reconstruct faces, and pioneered the extraordinary ‘tubed pedical’ method of skin grafting, in the days before skin grafts were possible. Multiple surgeries were required and the patients were kept in hospital for years at a time. [source]

Further information:

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