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Thanks to the man who gave back my smile
Placed by : Looking for Dental 02-02-2007
Accident victim Charlotte hands over pioneering equipment to the surgeon who rebuilt her face
A BRAVE schoolgirl said a big thank-you yesterday to the surgeon who helped her smile and laugh again.
A year ago Charlotte Leighton's face was shattered when she was knocked down by a car on her way to school in York.
She was flown from the scene by the Yorkshire Air Ambulance to hospital in Leeds with a badly broken leg and multiple fractures to her forehead, eye sockets and jaw. Doctors warned her parents to prepare for the worst.
But Charlotte, 11, has made a remarkable recovery thanks to her own resilience and a surgeon's skill in a new type of reconstructive surgery.
Consultant facial surgeon Richard Loukota rebuilt her face at Leeds General Infirmary using a new technique – sonic welding – instead of traditional titanium metal plates and screws.
Her surgery was the first of its kind in Britain and the first time in the world that the technique had been used on the lower jaw. Since the operation last year, three other British hospitals have taken delivery of the new equipment.
Yesterday Charlotte said a special thank-you at the Leeds Dental Institute by handing over a £7,500 bone welding machine, donated by suppliers Albert Waeschle Ltd, which should benefit 30 patients a year.
Mr Loukota, who carried out Charlotte's surgery in half the time of the traditional metal plate method, said the new kit would enable the hospital to offer the latest in facial surgery.
He added: "Charlotte's fantastic recovery is proof that this new technology can radically improve outcomes for children with severe facial fractures."
"The team here are absolutely thrilled."
The use of metal or titanium can lead to complications in children because their bones are still growing.
In sonic welding the reconstructive plates are made of poly-lactide, a biodegradable material which in time is broken down by the body. The plates can be welded in place instead of using metal screws.
Charlotte's parents Colin and Sue Leighton, of Tollerton, near York, are delighted with her progress.
Mrs Leighton said: "To look at her you would never dream what she has been through. She had to have her lip and tongue sewn back on and they had to re-build her eye socket and jaw. She had to have three false teeth.
"If she hadn't had this new technique, she would have needed more surgery."
Doctors feared the bump to her head could have caused brain damage but the signs so far are good, she added.
"She is a lot more outgoing since the accident – she used to be very quiet. Now she doesn't take any nonsense and is far more outspoken. Her character has totally changed. We don't know if this is caused by the bump on the head or from dealing with all the doctors and nurses.
"The neurology experts say she has suffered brain trauma but she is getting better all the time. She is getting back to her normal self. A change in personality is nothing compared to what could have been."
Charlotte was chatting and laughing during her meeting with Mr Loukota yesterday. She said her favourite hobbies were PE, cheerleading and "bush-beating" at bird shoots.
31 January 2007
YORKSHIRE POST today
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