War correspondent’s skull rebuilt after airport fall
FOR three decades, he risked his neck reporting from some of the most dangerous places on Earth as a BBC war correspondent and remained almost unharmed, but on Wednesday, Martin Bell revealed that he had to have his skull rebuilt by surgeons after tripping over his suitcase at Gatwick airport, London, and landing face-down on a concrete floor.
He said he resembled “Dracula’s grandfather” after fracturing his right maxilla bone, which is one of the bones that forms the upper jaw, his right and left eye sockets, his nose and an area at the base of his skull.
Bell, 80, who is also a former independent MP and is famous for his white suits, joked that he now looks younger and “like I’ve had Botox” after undergoing two-and-a-half hours of reconstructive surgery at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south London.
Bell previously recalled how, at the height of his reporting career, it was once said that he had a face like the relief map of a country he was covering, Bosnia, which was not “blessed with regular features”.
“But film-star good looks were not then in the job description,” he added.
Bell told the Evening Standard how he “face-planted” into the floor at the airport’s train ticket office as he returned from a cruise to publicise his new book, War and the Death of News, on November 5. One of the suitcases was full of books. “I have come through 18 wars almost unscathed and I trip up at a railway station,” he said.
“I have no one else to blame for this. I feel a complete idiot.”
During his career as a journalist, Bell reported from 80 countries including the former Yugoslavia, Nigeria, Angola and Rwanda, and covered the Vietnam War and first Gulf War.
While he avoided the crossfire during most of his assignments, he was injured by mortar shrapnel in 1992 as he delivered a bulletin from the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, his “lucky” white suit letting him down for once.
He suffered a deep flesh wound to his lower abdomen, which missed all vital organs but led to two operations.
Photographs of Bell in a hospital bed and a pre-operation scan graphically showed the extent of his injuries. Helen Witherow, consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon who led the team that performed the operation, used a surgical saw to cut through his left maxilla to reposition his jaw bones and ensure his teeth met correctly.
Four surgical plates and 16 screws were used to re-attach his upper mouth to his jawbone and repair the fractures. | Daily Mail
FORMER journalist turned British MP Martin Bell had to have his skull rebuilt after tripping over his suitcase at London’s Gatwick Airport.