Feature: The trick is to keep smiling with toughest of operations - meet the Max Fax team at DGH

Eastbourne DGH Maxillofacial Dept. March 12th 2012 E11060N'Andrew Moody Consultant Maxillofacial Unit
Eastbourne DGH Maxillofacial Dept. March 12th 2012 E11060N'Andrew Moody Consultant Maxillofacial Unit

“I wanted to be a dentist,” reveals Mr Moody when asked how he wound up dealing with face cancers, mouth injuries and the like here in Eastbourne.

“My father was a dentist, my grandfather was a dentist and the degree was great fun, but when it came to getting a job the thought of working in a dental practice filled me with dread.

“I went to work in a hospital in Birmingham and that was where I caught the bug.

“This October I will have been working here for 12 years and I love it.”

It is refreshing to see someone so happy and enthusiastic in their work – particularly when the job he does is so vital to so many people.

Along with his consultant colleagues Mike Williams and Christian Surwald, Mr Moody is part of a team which heads the maxillofacial department – or Max Fax as it is often shortened to.

The department deals with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the mouth, jaws, face and neck and specialises in mouth cancers, meaning Mr Moody and the team are at the forefront of treating hundreds of local people – not only helping them get rid of a potentially fatal disease, but trying to make sure they do not end up scarred for the remainder of their lives in the process.

And, while many people will not necessarily appreciate the risk of facial and throat cancers, it is an area Mr Moody says is becoming an increasing problem here on the Sunshine Coast.

Just last week, in fact, one of the team removed two thirds of a patient’s tongue.

However, it is the exterior procedures which worry patients the most.

“The face is high risk,” he says. “It heals very well because it has a fantastic blood supply but unlike say your arms or legs, you can always see the scar on the face.

“We do the best we can but we all get very upset when we leave a less than perfect scar.”

One of the most well-known operations carried out by Mr Moody and his team was part of the treatment given to Sergeant Richard Cross who, back in 2007, was left horrifically injured during a parachute accident at the town’s Airbourne Festival.

Mr Moody remembers, “He broke nearly every bone in his body.

“I operated on him twice for a total of about 17 hours and that was the shortest time of any of his operations.

“He was in a terrible state.”

Since then Sgt Cross has come on in leaps and bounds and now regularly returns to Eastbourne to help raise funds for the hospital which proved so key in saving his life.

The total raised by his sponsored bike rides is now in the thousands and he is far from alone in his admiration for the Max Fax team.

“People are grateful to us,” continued Mr Moody. “If we can successfully operate on their face and leave them looking OK it makes a real difference to them.”

A lot of the patients come in nursing sports injuries – with any game which involves sticks or bats ranking high in the league table of face problems.

“We see more people because of sport than we do for road traffic accidents,” reveals Mr Moody.

But while sport does send a seemingly never-ending supply of patients to Max Fax, it is far from being the worst offender.

It seems fights are one of the main drain on the department’s resources.

“We do get a lot of injuries from late-night fights. It is normally always young men who have been in fights at parties or pubs.

“We probably have 150 of those cases a year. Someone waking up with a broken jaw the morning after the night before.”

Stats like that are enough to make even the most upbeat person depressed. However, as Mr Moody revealed, there are more light-hearted – if equally horrific – cases.

Not one to make light of any patient’s situation, Mr Moody does however admit that this is one of those situations where if you don’t laugh, you may end up crying.

Faced with cancers, facial deformities, serious injuries and all the pressures that come with treating those kind of conditions, Mr Moody manages to keep smiling.

And, because of the expertise displayed on a daily basis by him and his colleagues, so to do the majority of his patients.