Surgeons at St George’s Hospital in south London have rebuilt the face of a junior doctor severely injured whilst out riding her horse.

Elizabeth Calton, 38, a paediatric registrar who trained at St George’s, was out horse-riding in October 2017.

She had to quickly dismount from her horse who had been spooked by a noise in the woods, but unfortunately, it ran right across her chest (breaking nine of her ribs) as well as the middle of her face.

Passers-by called an ambulance, and Elizabeth was rushed to the Major Trauma Centre at St George’s, where she was stabilised in the Emergency Department and then admitted to hospital, before undergoing complex maxillofacial surgery eight days later.

Elizabeth had suffered multiple fractures to the middle of her face – including both cheek bones, eye sockets, nose and upper jaw, which the force of the horse’s hoof had fractured in two.

The surgery involved 9 surgeons and theatre staff, who used 41 screws and 11 plates to rebuild the middle of Elizabeth’s face, which had collapsed under the weight of the horse’s hoof.

Elizabeth’s family provided surgeons with a photo of her from before they accident, which they used in theatre to ensure they recaptured her original bone structure – including the small asymmetries every individual has.

Elizabeth said: “The impact basically crushed the middle of my face backwards. I was incredibly lucky – both to have been discovered by passers-by, but also to be brought to St George’s, which has so many specialists in one place.

“I had panda eye bruising and my face was so swollen I was hardly recognisable – so to be back on my feet now, looking back to how I was, is amazing. I am grateful to everyone who looked after me – so many people were involved in my care.”

Every bone between Elizabeth’s palate and eye sockets was  broken, and Mr Nick Hyde, Consultant Maxillofacial Surgeon, led the 10 hour operation to rebuild her face.

“Multiple injuries to the face such as this are rare, and the surgery Elizabeth required was complex and labour-intensive. However, the end-result is very pleasing, and a credit to the many different people involved in her care.

“The maxillofacial surgery we carried out was only possible thanks to the work of the ambulance team who transferred her, as well as our Emergency Department, cardiothoracic surgical colleagues, anaesthetists and nursing and allied healthcare clinicians who were critical to her recovery at St George’s. It was a real team-effort.”

Elizabeth is currently studying for a PhD, and plans to become a paediatric oncologist.

Notes to editors

For more information, please contact Pippa Harper, Media Manager at St George’s via philippa.harper@stgeorges.nhs.ukor 020 8266 6128.