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Surgeon’s battle to put a smile on Brenda’s face

Imagine not being able to smile? That is the predicament facing patient Brenda when she appears in the sixth episode of The Face Doctors, at 9pm on Really on Wednesday (19 June), and available to stream via discovery+.

Her only hope is a risky operation to reposition a muscle from the side of her head to the corner of her mouth. But there are no guarantees it will work, and no way of knowing if it is successful until she is fully recovered.

Richard Price
Mr Richard Price in theatre

Viewers are introduced to Mr Richard Price, who is a highly experienced plastic surgeon at Addenbrooke’s specialising in skin cancer and facial reconstruction. He was, until 2010, the lead plastic surgeon for skin cancer services in Cambridgeshire, and until 2021 the lead for head and neck reconstruction at CUH.

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Mr Vijay Santhanam

Consultant oral, maxillofacial and facial plastic surgeon, Mr Vijay Santhanam, the clinical lead for oral and facial surgery, has his work cut out too…

Meghan, 23, has a hereditary condition which has caused one side of her jaw to grow faster than the other. This causes her problems with chewing and puts her at risk of dental issues. Realigning her jaw will also open up her airways and make breathing easier.

It’s all in a day’s work for Vijay, who lectures and conducts surgical masterclasses nationally and internationally. Working with Cambridge Global Health Partnerships (CGHP) and backed by Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT), Vijay uses his spare time to help those facially disfigured in overseas war and by disease. He has led facial surgery campaigns to Botswana and India.

In 2023, he and trainee surgeon, Mr Shadi Basyuni, led a team of colleagues to Jordan to help refugees who fled from Syria and Iran nursing horrific injuries inflicted by bombs, bullets, flying glass and metal.

CUH medical director, Dr Ashley Shaw, said:

Although we see very different procedures in this episode, we also see common themes – the tenacity of our patients and the skill and dedication of our staff.

If you are interested in helping people, visit our career pages as there are all sorts of roles at our hospitals, clinical and non-clinical. It’s a Trust to be proud of – Addenbrooke’s provides emergency, surgical and medical care and is also a regional centre of excellence for specialist services such as organ transplantation, neurosciences, paediatrics and genetics.

The Rosie, based on the same site, is the regional centre of excellence for maternity care. It has its own theatre suite, fetal assessment unit, ultrasound department and neonatal intensive care unit.

Dr Ashley Shaw

‘The Face Doctors’ consists of eight weekly episodes that follow the journeys of patients whose lives have been impacted as a result of flesh-eating infections, challenging genetic conditions, and life-changing traumas.

It is not just about fixing broken bodies, but restoring identities, mending confidence, and helping patients and families rebuild their lives. There are touching moments as patients see their new reflections, and as families share their joy.

It has been produced by Dragonfly TV, the same award-winning company that shot six series BBC Two’s ‘Surgeons: At the Edge of Life’, which won wide acclaim and was watched by millions of viewers.

To learn more about surgeons in the series visit ‘The Face Doctors’ pages. For information about working at CUH visit our careers pages.