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Beckenham trauma surgeon reveals what life is like in King's on 24 Hours in A&E
A surgeon from Beckenham is helping rebuild people’s lives by repairing their shattered faces. He reveals to HELOISE WOOD how pioneering techniques are helping him piece patients back to together.
ROB Bentley has operated on the face of a student who was hit by speeding lorry, rebuilt a man's skull after he suffered a deadly brain infection and injected stomach fat into the head of a man who fell 25ft.
It is all in a day's work for the major Trauma Centre clinical director.
He regularly appears in the Channel 4 documentary series, 24 Hours in A&E, which is set in King's College Hospital in Denmark Hill.
Mr Bentley says it is useful for the public to understand what a busy ward is like.
The Beckenham resident, who has worked at King’s for 13 years, explains: "The programme has made people more aware of what we do.
"You have people making the most difficult decisions in their lives and many patients walking out with injuries and disabilities.
"If you’ve got someone going in with an ingrown toenail and someone with an open chest wound in the next bed, the viewers see how it makes our lives harder and how they could go to their GPs.
"They see we are human and how it affects us as well as the patients."
As a consultant cranio-oral and maxillofacial surgeon Mr Bentley rebuilds people's skulls after they have had sections removed to reduce brain swelling due to infections, strokes or some kind of trauma such as car accidents.
He has a dentistry degree as well as a medical degree because it is such a specialised area of expertise.
King’s became the first hospital in the UK to provide a specialist round-the-clock service for these type of injuries in 2010 and continues to be the busiest facility for this treatment in the country.
The father-of-two, who has lived by Ravensbourne station for six years, says: "We produce our own titanium plates in-house now which speeds up the procedure.
"Before patients would have to wait months between having skull removed to having it reconstructed but now it can happen within weeks or even at the same time."
In 2011 Mr Bentley pioneered the first ever operation of its type in the UK by inserting fat from a man’s stomach into his forehead to fill out a gap in his head after fallling from a drainpipe and suffering a brain haemorrhage.
He said: "We’ve probably been using titanium plates for operations for around 15 years.
"The procedures take between around 50 minutes to three hours.
"I’ve already done two operations this morning.
"People used to fashion plates out of steel. I had a patient, who was 92 and he had a plate perforating his forehead from the First World War."
He and former patient, Danny Elphick of Aspen Close, Bickley, stayed in touch after the surgeon ‘changed the life’ of the construction company managing director, who had suffered a deadly brain condition in 2011.
Last month they did an abseil together on the Golden Jubilee Wing of King’s College building to raise money for research into how the operations affect people’s lives.
He said:"Danny came to me and said it had changed his life so he wanted to give back."
"The best thing about my job is being able to help someone who has had a difficult time of it - and perhaps having to stay indoors or hide their head in a cap - and being able to change their life."
For more information, visit togetherwecan.org.uk/kings-college-hospital
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