Calls for surgeon who rebuilt young rider’s face to be knighted

A teenager whose jaw was split in two in a riding accident is calling for her surgeon to receive a knighthood after he rebuilt her face.

Emily Eccles, 15, arrived at Sheffield Children’s Emergency Department with just 1cm of skin keeping her jaw attached after she hit her face on a wooden post in a fall.

She was out riding when a vehicle’s popping exhaust spooked the horse she was riding, causing him to gallop off.

“We went round one corner to the left and I leant into it, then another to the right and this time, as I leant to that side, a wooden post smashed into the right side of my jaw,” she said. “I think I was in so much shock that I didn’t feel much pain.”

Ricardo Mohammed-Ali

Emily Eccles’ pre-operation CT scan.

Emily was rushed to hospital, where she was examined and went straight into surgery, at just after 9pm.

“When we got to the emergency department, the nurses were great, talking me through everything. They kept chatting to me all the way. Then the surgeon came and he was so cool, calm and collected,” added Emily.

“It hasn’t felt like a hospital. I can’t believe how much I laughed when I was staying on the ward!”

Consultant facial reconstructive surgeon Ricardo Mohammed-Ali spent close to five hours rebuilding her face, finishing at 2.40am the following day.

Mr Mohammed-Ali described Emily’s facial injuries as some of the worst he has seen in a child outside a war zone.

“Emily’s injury was significant in that the entire left side of her lower jaw from the front of the jaw to the joint was pulled away from the face and only retained by a small strip of skin,” he said.

“The nerves that supply sensation to the lip and chin were torn on both sides. Branches of the facial nerve that move the muscles of the lower lip were severed on both sides. The lower part of Emily’s face was only attached by a piece of skin.

“It could have been worse, but it is one of the most significant injuries that I have seen in a child outside of areas of conflict.”

He added he is “extremely pleased with her recovery so far”.

Emily Eccles’ CT scan after surgery and on the road to recovery.

Titanium plates were fitted into Emily’s face during the surgery and she has scarring, which is expected to fade in time.

“Emily will remain under my care for a long time. I will monitor the healing and growth of the lower jaw and treat accordingly,” said Mr Mohammed-Ali.

“The scar will mature over 12 to 18 months and I will treat it depending on the appearance as it matures.”

Emily’s family is supporting the Children’s Hospital Charity, which supports Sheffield Children’s, which is fundraising to improve and expand the department.

In particular, the family has been raising money towards a helipad for the hospital, to allow air ambulances to land more easily, whereas Emily was taken by road as this was faster in her case.

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Emily’s mum, Michelle Eccles, said: “With the air ambulance, she could’ve been taken anywhere but we were very lucky that Mr Ali was at Sheffield Children’s. We’re writing to The Queen to get him a knighthood!

“We’ve been told in a year’s time that people standing at a conversational distance won’t be able to notice the scarring.

“When we were at the hospital we saw the emergency department, anesthetists, surgeons, high dependency unit, clinical psychologists, community nurses, play specialists and therapy dogs too. Without exception the staff have all had a smiles on their faces and been incredibly professional.”

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