War cor­re­spon­dent’s skull re­built after air­port fall

The Star Late Edition - - METRO - DAVID WILKES | Daily Mail

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.

FOR­MER jour­nal­ist turned British MP Martin Bell had to have his skull re­built after trip­ping over his suit­case at Lon­don’s Gatwick Air­port.

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