Skilled hands can swing it so the scars heal
CAMERON MORRISON is a typical, lively five-year-old - causing mayhem one minute, seeking cuddles from his mum and dad the next.
Yet the fact he is here at all is something of a miracle.
That he looks just like any other mischievous lad is testimony to the remarkable skill of a plastic surgeon.
Plastic surgery has helped transform Cameron’s looks after he was born almost covered in deep scars and with a gap in the skin at the top of his head, the result of a condition known as aplasia cutis congenital caused by sharing his mother’s womb with his dead twin brother.
"His twin, Lee, died 13 weeks into the pregnancy and polluted the blood supply to Cameron," explains his dad Steven Allison, 26. "Cameron was born with masses of scarring on his abdomen, thighs, arms and neck - like burn marks. There was a gap from the fontanelle - the soft area on his skull - right up to the crown. He had a large, bald patch - maybe five centimetres by seven centimetres."
Today, few would give Cameron a second glance, thanks to his plastic surgeon. Yet it is claimed this kind of work is being forgotten by a nation fascinated with celebrities’ cosmetic surgery and television makeover programmes.
"One of the things that comes across in the TV programmes is that there is a quick fix for anything," says Chris Khoo, chairman of the British Association of Plastic Surgeons. "This obsession tends to trivialise what the speciality can do.
"Our members treat cancer patients, burn victims and babies with cleft palates."
No-one agrees more than Cameron’s delighted parents, Steven Allison and his partner Stella Morrison, 23.
They have watched Cameron overcome his twin’s death in the womb, his premature birth and a stroke, followed by three operations to remove his disfigurements. They have also had to endure sneers and looks from passers-by.
"When Cameron was born, he had to have a lot of cream on his head," recalls Steven, a civil servant. "Once Stella was in a shop cafe when she took off his wee hat.
"A woman sitting nearby actually leaned over and asked her to put it back on because it was making her feel sick. Another time, two old women were in the post office and Stella could hear them saying that she must have burned Cameron with an iron."
Cameron’s surgeon, Edinburgh-based Ken Stewart, had to insert two water-filled balloons beneath his scalp to help stretch the skin.
Steven says: "He ended up with 80 stitches in his head, but at least he has hair over the scars." The operation was carried out just before Cameron’s fourth birthday. Two other operations to help heal the scars on his arms, which have left the skin stretched and with reduced flexibility, have also been carried out - one more successful than the other.
"Cameron is very self-conscious and tends to cover his arms," continues Steven, who lives with his family - Cameron has a baby sister, Robyn, aged ten months - at Erskine Way, Knightsridge, Livingston.
"It worked on one arm but is less successful on the other."
Mr Stewart is hopeful another operation to remove the scarred skin will dramatically improve the Knightsridge Primary School pupil’s most sensitive area.
He is one of 28 consultants in Scotland, who mostly combine NHS work with private cosmetic surgery, carrying out anything from Botox to breast enlargements and tummy tucks.
HE says: "They are mutually complimentary because often we use the exact same techniques in both fields.
Very often we borrow cosmetic techniques to apply to children or adults in order to enhance their disfigurement.
"For example, there are a number of children who have had facelifts because they have a condition that leaves them with a skin excess - perhaps because of a strawberry birthmark."
Soaring numbers of Britons seeking cosmetic surgery means consultants like Mr Stewart may soon be in even more demand for their private work.
The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons reports a 65 per cent increase last year in the number of cosmetic procedures carried out in 2004 - some 16,367 compared to 10,738 in 2003.
Mr Stewart’s colleague, consultant plastic surgeon Awf Quaba, stresses the work is much more than nipping and tucking celebrities. He says: "Most plastic surgeons do a huge amount of reconstructive work, whether to repair burns, skin cancer and breast cancer reconstruction.
"At the laser suite in St John’s [Hospital in Livingston] we see a huge number of children with birthmarks and we deal with children with cleft lips and palates, fused fingers.
"We also have major commitments to trauma and injury. People don’t imagine us being on call at 4am to deal with a limb reconstruction, but we are."
His patients include meningitis sufferer Olivia Giles, a young Edinburgh lawyer who lost her limbs to the illness; Hannan Shihab, the Iraqi teenager brought to Lothian for treatment to extensive burns and 19-year-old Louise Mitchell, who lost both legs and an arm after being hit by a train as she crossed a level crossing in Kirknewton two weeks ago.
He insists that all areas of work are satisfying - whether it’s rebuilding someone’s life after serious injury or removing a bump from a patient’s nose.
He says: "We treat individuals as patients, not as customers, irrespective of whether it’s a serious injury or a patient who isn’t happy with their nose. The bottom line is that we are doctors."
Kirsty has strength just to get on with it
A LARGE patch covers the gaping hole in Kirsty Stewart’s face where her eye should be and some people just won’t let her forget it.
"They say things like, ‘eye, eye’ to me and laugh, or shout ‘one eye bandit’. If I had a penny for every time someone asks: ‘What have you done to yourself?’, I’d be rich," she sighs.
But it doesn’t bother her. Instead Kirsty shrugs and reminds herself that they have the problem, not her.
"The other day at work there was this older man who made this really smart comment," she continues. "I get a bit sick of it - I’ve been hearing it all my life. I just give them a filthy look . . . what’s the point in doing anything else?"
In today’s nip and tuck society, hooked on television surgical makeovers and flawless celebrities, Kirsty’s looks rarely go unnoticed.
Born with a cruel facial disfigurement which left her without an eye and with a badly disfigured nose and mouth, she endured her first surgery at a mere five days old.
It lasted ten hours and heralded the beginning of 17 gruelling surgical procedures which have helped rebuild her face.
Shards of bone from her skull created an eyebrow and cheekbone and other procedures involved reconstructing an eye socket - complete with magnets under her skin to allow the placement of a prosthetic eye.
Today Kirsty, 20, of Hutchison Road, Chesser, feels more comfortable wearing a cotton patch instead of a glass eye. Nevertheless she is living testimony to the skill of her now retired Glasgow-based plastic surgeon.
"I can probably understand better than most why people want to change their looks," says Kirsty, a communication co-ordinator at her local Asda.
"Everyone has an opinion about how they feel they look. If they feel that they don’t like what they have, then there’s nothing wrong with changing it.
"Some just have too much money to spend, but if they want to do it, then fine. But for me . . . I just get on with my life."
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