Face pieced together like a 'jigsaw puzzle'

SEAMUS BOYER
Last updated 05:00 07/11/2012
Peter Fisher.
Supplied
INJURED: Martinborough volunteer firefighter Peter Fisher.
A scan of bashed firefighter Peter Fisher's skull
SHATTERED: A scan of bashed firefighter Peter Fisher's skull before the surgery.

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Repairing the shattered face of bashed firefighter Peter Fisher was like doing a five-hour jigsaw puzzle, says the surgeon who led the operation.

Top plastic surgeon Swee Tan headed a team of four surgeons in the facial reconstruction surgery at Hutt Hospital on Monday.

Mr Fisher, a volunteer firefighter, had gone to eject an unwanted guest from a gathering of 14-year-olds in Martinborough last week when the alleged gatecrasher is said to have attacked him.

Professor Tan, director of surgery at the hospital, said he had not seen such severe facial injuries since operating on a plane-crash victim.

Mr Fisher suffered "extensive fractures" to his face, including broken cheek bones, a broken and dislodged upper jaw, a badly broken nose, broken eye sockets and three dislodged teeth.

"If you imagine [the area] from the eyebrows down to the upper jaw, the whole central part of the face had been shattered.

"It was like a jigsaw puzzle because we had to find the bone pieces - maybe 30 or so - and put them all back together."

The medical team then inserted a dozen titanium plates to hold the bones together, recreated an eye socket, screwed the upper jaw and locked the missing teeth into place.

But as horrific as the injuries were, they may have kept Mr Fisher alive. "These facial fractures probably saved his life because they absorbed a lot of the impact."

Mr Fisher was the latest victim in a worrying trend, he said. Until recently, most patients with such severe injuries would have been in vehicle crashes, but about five years ago "inter-personal violence" took over as the leading cause.

Mr Fisher's were among the worst violence injuries he had come across in his career. "This is supposed to be a civilised society, so this should not happen."

Yesterday Mr Fisher's brother, Paul, praised Prof Tan and his team for their work.

"This was way up there in order of severity, apparently," he said. "It was supposedly a very difficult operation . . . and they've done a fantastic job."

His brother's recovery was "nothing short of a miracle", he said. "You go and see him every six hours and you can literally see the improvement."

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Mr Fisher's father, Brian, said his son's injuries were "very extensive".

"He took a very, very brutal beating . . . a very serious stomping."

The brain damage he suffered, which doctors likened to the equivalent of "two or three little strokes", was still of most concern.

"With any brain injury, there's very serious consequences. I don't think he's ever going to be himself again.

"The paralysis on the right side is very worrying, he's got no movement in his right arm and only some movement in his right leg."

His son had initially been kept in an induced coma by hospital staff for 3 days. He was now sleeping about 20 hours each day, but was able to talk "a little bit" while awake.

At his bedside was "the tight five" of partner Freida, brother Paul, sister Dee and parents Brian and Noeline.

The surgery came on the same day the alleged attacker had more charges laid against him in Masterton District Court.

Milton Haira, 25, made a brief appearance before being further remanded in custody without plea until next month.

A charge of assault on Mr Fisher was withdrawn and replaced with a more serious charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Haira was also charged with assaulting four teenage girls at the party, all 14, and of threatening to kill three members of the group.

Police have said the gathering, mostly of girls, was supervised. Haira, who lived nearby, arrived intoxicated. When he refused to go, the mother of the girl who lived there asked Mr Fisher to help eject him. An argument broke out, and Mr Fisher was attacked.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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