Praise for NHS staff who rebuilt face of 80-year-old ex-BBC journalist
PUBLISHED: 14:14 12 January 2019 | UPDATED: 09:00 13 January 2019
A former war correspondent has praised the doctors, nurses and surgeons who rebuilt his face after he tripped over a suitcase at Gatwick Airport.
Martin Bell OBE, who previously worked for the BBC in Norwich, broke his nose and several other facial bones when he fell to the floor in November last year.
The 80-year-old, who had been on the way back from a cruise in the Atlantic, said he was left covered in blood and bore a “striking resemblance” to Dracula’s grandfather.
But a two-hour operation at St George’s Hospital in London saw surgeons rebuild the former MP’s face, which had been broken in nine places.
He said: “This they did with tubes and wire-work and a lattice of intricate metal strips re-attaching the upper mouth to the jawbone, and fastening a cage over the nose, which was also broken.
“The operation took two hours. When I awoke from under the anaesthetic I had no idea where I was and behaved rather strangely, which I believe is quite common.
“It was such a better experience than an earlier operation, in Sarajevo in 1992, when I managed to be wounded by the Serbs and robbed by the French on the same day.”
Mr Bell praised surgeon Helen Witherow and her “remarkable” team that operated on him.
He said: “We depend for our health and happiness on a legion of unsung heroes. So I am privileged, from personal experience and with a hole in my head, to sing the praises of the nurses, doctors and surgeons who work for and with the Maxofallacial Surgery Unit at St George’s. We are truly lucky to have them.”
Helen Witherow, consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon, who operated on Mr Bell said: “The surgery involved repairing Mr Bell’s fractures using titanium plates and screws, and these remain in place permanently. We are pleased to hear he is so well, and so positive about his experience of the care our team provided.”
Mr Bell who grew up in Redisham, near Halesworth, joined the BBC in Norwich, in 1962 after graduating from Cambridge University, he moved to London three years later where he soon started covering conflicts across the world.
In the late 1990s he ran and served as MP for Tatton, in Cheshire.