Teen girl left with 'war zone injury' after falling from horse and smashing face into gatepost

8 October 2019, 15:06 | Updated: 8 October 2019, 15:10

Emily Eccles, 15, suffered a horrific face injury after falling off her horse
Emily Eccles, 15, suffered a horrific face injury after falling off her horse. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

A teenage girl whose jaw was left hanging on by one centimetre of skin after smashing her face into a gatepost has called for the surgeon who saved her to receive a knighthood.

Emily Eccles, 15, suffered the horrific injury after being thrown from her horse when it was spooked by a car exhaust near Baslow, in Derbyshire, in August.

The schoolgirl had to hold what was left of her face as she was rushed to Sheffield Children's Hospital for emergency surgery to piece her jaw back together.

Consultant facial reconstructive surgeon Ricardo Mohammed-Ali managed to rebuild her face in a mammoth five-and-a-half hour long operation using three titanium plates, more than 160 stitches and managed to save all but one of her teeth.

It was such a success Emily was back in the classroom for the first day of term - just a month after the injury which could have change her life.

Now, two months on, Emily is seeing her scars fade by the day and hoping to persuade her parents to let her ride again.

Emily's injuries have significantly healed over the past two months, and her surgeon managed to save all but one of her teeth
Emily's injuries have significantly healed over the past two months, and her surgeon managed to save all but one of her teeth. Picture: PA

Mr Mohammed-Ali said: "It could have been worse, but it is one of the most significant injuries that I have seen in a child outside of areas of conflict."

He said: "Emily's injury was significant in that the entire left side of her lower jaw from the front of the jaw to the joint was pulled away from the face and only retained by a small strip of skin.

"The nerves that supply sensation to the lip and chin was torn on both sides. Branches of the facial nerve that move the muscles of the lower lip were severed on both sides. The lower part of Emily's face was only attached by a piece of skin."

He added: "I am extremely pleased with her recovery so far."

Speaking of the moment she first caught a glimpse of her injuries, Emily said: "I just looked down and I was like, 'I don't know what that is',"

She added that, once in the ambulance: "I just looked down and I could see teeth and bone and I said, 'is that my jaw?'."

A scan of her face reveals the extent of her injuries
A scan of her face reveals the extent of her injuries. Picture: PA

Emily said she first tried not to look, but accidentally switched on her selfie camera as she was messaging a friend.

"It was like something you see in a film, it was really quite horrific," she said.

"At first I was thinking, I don't know what I'm going to do, I'm not going to look like me, I'm not going to have the same kind of life as I did before."

Now the teenager is thanking Mr Mohammed-Ali for a recovery her mother has called "miraculous".

"He said that in a year's time, from speaking distance, you won't even be able to tell that anything's happened," Emily said.

Emily pictured during her treatment
Emily pictured during her treatment. Picture: PA

She said: "We can't thank him enough. Everything that he's done in his career up to that point led up to him being on call that night. If anything had gone any differently, I might not have had a bottom jaw."

Emily said she has written to the Queen to get the surgeon a knighthood and received a personal letter straight back from her secretary saying it had been referred to the relevant body.

"Saving people's lives and getting them back to normality definitely deserves some sort of recognition," she said.

Emily lives in a village just outside Sheffield with her teacher parents Michelle, 50, and Chris, 48; her brother Sam, 17, and their two dogs

Her mum said she is "still thinking" about letting her daughter getting back on a horse.

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