x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The name behind the face

The Dubai specialist Daril Atkins was tasked with creating a facial prosthetic for Zakia that would enable her to go out in public with confidence.

One of the professionals who volunteered to help Zakia's rehabilitation was Mr Daril Atkins, a certified clinical anaplastologist with the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

Mr Atkins job was to create a facial prosthetic for Zakia that would enable her to go out in public with confidence. The specialist was determined to use his more than four decades of experience to give Zakia as close to a normal life as possible.

"The problem for Zakia was much more than just a physical one," Mr Atkins said. "When she would go out, people would keep looking at her. It's a form of morbid curiosity where people do not help, but just stare. They would not leave her in peace."

Such attacks gives the perpetrator a twisted sense of satisfaction, Mr Atkins said, because the victims must endure the consequences for the rest of their lives.

"It is a form of branding in which the patient survives and so the suffering is meant to continue," he said. "The victim will be socially handicapped."

With the limited medical facilities in Pakistan, Mr Atkins had to improvise his technique. Working closely with the London-based reconstructive surgeon Mohammad Jawad, the specialist completed a job that would normally take two weeks in just seven days.

"To [imitate] lifelike contours that God has created through reconstructive surgery is very difficult," Mr Atkins said. "This is where a prosthesis would do a very good job."

Using an artificial medium made from acrylic, Mr Atkins designed a prosthetic that gave Zakia eyelids, a left nostril, a defined cheek, and lips. The prosthetic is fixed onto Zakia's face using spectacles.

Traditionally, silicon polymers would be used for the prosthetic, however for Zakia, Mr Atkins decided acrylic would be more appropriate.

"These are expensive and require a lot of maintenance," Mr Atkins said. "We needed to keep it simple, something that can be easily fixed should something happen."

mismail@thenational.ae