Project Façade: Plastic Surgeries of World War I

The medical discipline of plastic surgery (a reconstructive surgery, not to be confused with cosmetic surgery) has its origins in the horrors of World War I. The massive use of heavy artilleries in the war resulted not only in greater number of deaths, but also of horrific facial injuries.

Artist Paddy Hartley of Project Façade uses photos and surgical notes from The Gillies Archive to create an art exhibition about the birth of plastic surgery, detailing the work of Sir Harold in putting back the lives of the injured servicemen by reconstructing their faces:

The First World War was a war dominated by high explosives and heavy artillery. Battlefield casualties included an unprecedented number with horrific facial injuries - injuries so severe the men were commonly unrecognizable to loved ones and friends. Often unable to see, hear, speak eat or drink, they struggled to re-assimilate back into civilian life. This secondary tragedy - the living unable to "live" - catalyzed Surgeon Sir Harold Gillies to transform the fledgling discipline of plastic surgery based on his unrivalled observation of the profoundly wounded and his ability to push the parameters of the profession beyond all known techniques.

Link: Project Façade | Article on Telegraph - via Look at This (BTW, Happy Birthday to webmaster ILuvNUFC)

Photo: In 1917, gunnery warrant officer Walter Yeo was presumably the first patient treated by Sir Harold Gillies, the "father of plastic surgery," to undergo a new skin graft procedure called a tubed pedicle. More on him here: http://www.projectfacade.com/index.php?/case/C125/


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these images have been making the rounds the last couple of days. when i was younger a friend had a book with photos of WWI soldiers with face prostheses and before and after shots of the cavities blown in their faces by shrapnel etc. at that time i was fascinated by the gore. now, maybe because i'm older and have tasted enough of my own mortality, or because i'm just more sensitive i find these profoundly disturbing. i can't help but seeing past the injuries to the fact that most of these guys were handsome young men who probably had sweethearts and mothers waiting for them only to return so difigured. the idea of all that collective pain gives me goosebumps.
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