UCLH surgeon in the spotlight 

08/06/2010 00:00 

Tim Lloyd, UCLH maxillofacial surgeon, flew to Ethiopia in February for one of the biggest challenges of his career: operating on young patients ravaged by Noma, a gangrenous flesh eating infection.

UCLH surgeon in the spotlight

Part of the team: UCLH maxillofacial surgeon Tim Lloyd pictured on the far right; Ben Fogle pictured centre.

Tim travelled with colleagues David Dunaway and Neil Bulstrode, from Great Ormond Street Hospital, and Leeds plastic surgeon LeRoux Fourie to operate on young patients.

The trip was organised by the charity Facing Africa and will be featured in a BBC documentary tonight presented by Ben Fogle.

Following his personal fight against the flesh-eating disease Leishmaniasis in 2008, Ben investigates a sickness that's far worse but virtually unheard of - Noma, which eats away the faces of thousands of Africa's poorest children. Up to 90 percent of Noma victims die, while survivors are left terribly disfigured.

Every year a British charity sends top cosmetic surgeons to Africa to treat those affected. Ben goes to Ethiopia with the three surgeons, where he joins in the difficult task of finding the Noma sufferers, who are hidden away in shame.

On his journey Ben meets three children whose lives have been blighted by this terrible disease: teenager Rashid, forced to hide his face in public; Asnake, 11, whose condition means that he dribbles constantly; and Mestikma, 10, abandoned by her family because of her deformity.

These children will join other Noma victims in Addis Ababa for the radical transformative surgery. Demand is overwhelming and the visiting surgeons won't have time to treat everyone.

Tim said: “Those who are affected by Noma are treated as outcasts, as unclean and it is viewed as a stigma. Surgery won’t restore perfect features but we hope the improvements have enabled them to be integrated back into the Ethiopian community.”

Managing patient expectations, both here and abroad, is vital. “There are limitations as to what you can achieve from a surgical point of view and you have to be realistic. Otherwise it just leads to unhappiness,” he added.

Ben watches the teams carrying out amazing surgery. A month later, he returns to Ethiopia to visit the recovering patients. For them, a new face means a new life.

Make Me a New Face: Hope for Africa’s Hidden Children airs on BBC2 on 9 June 2010 at 9pm.


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