World War One and Harold Gillies

EYEBROW-GRAFT tubed-pedicle-graft-harold-gilliesThese are two images from Harold Gillies’ 1920 book “Plastic Surgery of the Face”.

I’m doing a rather greusome and graphic study on medical innovations that resulted because of World War One, and it’s painful to know that thousands of people had to suffer massive disfigurements, wounds, and other fates. Treatments were done with the aid of ether or choloform, sometimes mixed together- both were not as medically sound as they could have been, although no other options existed at the time.

Harold Gillies pioneered a lot of plastic surgery techniques to restore a realistic face to many men- he performed over 11,000 surgeries (along with the first sex change!) and his work, while not perfect and often with scarring, gave many soldiers hope that they could return to society and not feel the need to hide. He grafted cartilige, injected fat (sometimes paraffin wax), and gave men lips, eyebrows, and eyelids where they were burned off or blown off by the massive artillery or chemicals.

I’m doing this paper and every word I write makes me grateful for the medical science around me as well as feeling immense compassion for the surgeons and men who had to work under such conditions.



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