The Facemaker

  • Type: Books
  • By: Lindsey Fitzharris
  • Age Category: Adults
  • Genre: Non-Fiction
  • Recommended by: Tom S.
  • ISBN/UPC: 9780374282301
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Helping the veterans nobody wanted to see

I respect science a lot, but I’m not great at understanding scientific concepts and procedures, which is why I treasure good science writers who can explain things in such a way that even a reader as clueless as me will be captivated.  This book tells the amazing story of Harold Gillies, a British military surgeon who dedicated his career to restoring the faces of soldiers, sailors, and marines injured in combat.  

In the early days of the war, most military doctors had little training in reconstructive surgery.  The emphasis was on stopping blood loss, closing wounds, and getting the injured serviceman back to the front as soon as possible with little regard for his appearance.    This might have made sense from a purely military perspective, but it usually left soldiers suffering from poorly treated facial injuries with a dire future once they re-entered civilian life.  While soldiers who had lost a limb but whose faces remained undamaged were treated as returning heroes, a missing arm or leg regarded as a badge of honor, men with facial injuries were usually reviled as monsters, unfit to associate with the general population.

Harold Gillies, an enormously compassionate man, set out to change this.  He assembled multidisciplinary teams that included dentists, orthopedic surgeons, opthamologists, and other specialists.  This reflected Gillies’ understanding that good facial reconstruction required that the underlying muscles, bones, and tendons be properly repaired before attempting to rebuild the face’s outermost layer.  

Fans of Dava Sobel, Mary Roach, or Simon Winchester may well enjoy this book.