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Teenager’s jaw ripped off in ‘warzone’ injury during horse riding accident

‘It was like something you see in a film, it was really quite horrific’

Chiara Giordano
Wednesday 09 October 2019 07:43 BST
Girl's face saved after her jaw was left hanging in horse riding accident

A teenager’s face has been completely rebuilt after her jaw was ripped off during a horse accident in what surgeons described as the worst injury they had seen outside of a warzone.

Emily Eccles, 15, was left with just one centimetre of skin keeping the left side of her jaw attached to her head after she smashed it off a gatepost while out riding in the Peak District.

The schoolgirl remembers catching the bottom of her face in her own hands during the accident near Baslow, in Derbyshire, in August.

She was rushed to Sheffield Children’s Hospital where surgeon Ricardo Mohammed-Ali rebuilt her face in an operation lasting five and a half hours.

The surgery was such a success that Emily was back to school for the start of term just a month after the accident – and her scars continue to fade each day.

The teenager explained how she had been out riding with a friend and her family when her horse was spooked by an exhaust popping on a car.

The animal galloped along a country path but, after her feet came out of the stirrups and she fell to one side, Emily’s head hit a wooden post.

Emily said she remembered catching something red which flashed in front of her face as she fell.

“I just looked down and I was like, ‘I don’t know what that is’,” she said.

Once inside an ambulance, Emily says she “just looked down and I could see teeth and bone and I said, ‘is that my jaw?’.”

Mr Mohammed-Ali pieced together Emily’s face using three titanium plates, more than 160 stitches and managing to save all but one of her teeth.

The teenager, who is studying for her GCSEs at Wales High School, near Sheffield, and is also a talented skier, said her horrified friends thought her injuries were like “some kind of zombie”.

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

She added: “It was like something you see in a film, it was really quite horrific.

“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.”

But now the teenager has called for Mr Mohammed-Ali to receive a knighthood, following a recovery her mother described as “miraculous”.

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

“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.”

Mr Mohammed-Ali said it was “one of the most significant injuries that I have seen in a child outside of areas of conflict,” but that he was “extremely pleased” with Emily’s recovery so far.

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.

Press Association contributed to this report.

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