Our surgeon Mr Nicholas Percival helps Pam Warren - Paddington train crash survivor
"From Behind The Mask" - Pam Warren's Inspirational Story
Our leading cosmetic surgeon Nick Percival (regular contributor to TV series ‘Botched up Bodies’), was the on call Consultant for Plastic Surgery at the Charing Cross Hospital on the day of the Paddington Rail Disaster. Pam Warren, known as the woman behind the mask, was one of two patients admitted to the hospital with severe burn injuries. Pam had suffered burns to her hands and face and was in a medically induced coma when she arrived on the intensive care unit.
UK surgeon Nick Percival: "We supplied Pam with a custom made acrylic mask to try and reduce the inevitable scar formation on her face, this became her recognizable trademark to the general public as she was required to wear it for several months as she started her campaign for better rail safety.
Pam is famous for being a survivor of the infamous Paddington train crash disaster in 1999. On October 5th at 11am, a routine journey soon turned into a nightmare of epic proportions where the train she was on collided head on with another train at dizzying speeds 130mph, what ensued next was as she herself describes total pandemonium, that day 31 people died and over 400 were injured. She is very lucky to be alive; however, after the fireball that ripped through the 1st class train carriage that day, she bears the scars to mark the occasion for the rest of her life. Pam required intensive medical care and treatment in order to survive the incident, however once the injuries healed that would allow her to live, a new set of injuries were needed to be attended to.
“I will always remember the day Nick Percival entered my hospital room, sat down opposite and discussed his idea to help heal my burnt face. He carefully explained what was happening while the grafts and my facial skin knitted together and what the potential scarring implications might be - they sounded bad. "I'd like you to consider wearing a plastic mask over your face" he stated. Whilst I looked at him skeptically he explained that the rigid Perspex would gently push the scarring down whilst keeping the atmosphere underneath moist and warm which was ideal for continued healing. "To be effective it has to be fitted very tightly by straps around the back of your head, molded to the contours of your face and you must wear it for 23 hours a day probably for 18 months".
In his own words UK surgeon Nick Percival describes his involvement with Pam Warren’s incredible journey of healing after a major trauma.
“As she had been involved in a major accident and we did not know the extent of her injuries other than those which were immediately obvious, we had to systematically examine her in detail to ensure that whilst we concentrated on her burns we did not miss any other injuries which needed treatment. We knew from the medical staff that had treated her at the scene that she had been conscious when they initially saw her and was able to walk away from the wreckage. Our priority was to resuscitate her to replace the body fluids she was loosing as a result of the burns to prevent her major organs such as her kidneys from shutting down.
Although the Charing Cross Hospital was not a designated Burns Unit, I had during my plastic surgery training treated many major burn patients. Once we had ensured her initial survival, I made a plan of action to treat the burns to get Pam healed as quickly as possible before infection could take hold and put her life at risk. We took her to the operating theatre once her clinical condition had stabilized to remove the burnt skin on her hands and face. It looked like Pam had placed her hands over her face as these had taken the brunt of the heat and therefore had the deepest burns. Having shaved off the dead burnt skin we harvested skin grafts from her thighs and used these to cover the raw hands. We examined the face and removed dead skin from the deeper burns and cleaned the wounds extensively. Following the surgery Pam remained with us for almost 2 months undergoing a series of operations and grueling physiotherapy. Over the following 2 years I saw Pam regularly and she needed further small procedures to aid the healing process and to regain maximal function in her hands. I was delighted to meet with Pam at her book launch after all these years, knowing the dark days she had been through, to see her thriving with a real enjoyment and purpose back in her life.”
Last month Pam brought out her book ‘From Behind the Mask’, an inspirational story of her recovery which can be found at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/From-Behind-The-Mask-Warren/dp/1849546665