Today is the first of two days of lectures. Although the conference program is spread over four days, the conference is technically only two days. Days 1 and 4 are reserved for optional workshops and longer courses that members pay for separately. Limited time makes for a very compact schedule, with sixteen lectures each day. When multiple speakers exceed their alotted time, it can easily be up to 10 hours with very short breaks. Despite the intensity, the speakers and audience show equal enthusiasm during the panel discussions following each session period. (click here to see the full schedule)
The first keynote speech of the day features an extremely complex facial reconstruction of a gunshot case performed at the Ghent University Hospital. Perhaps there are not too many fields where extremely greusome images can be shown while the audience is still enjoying breakfast, but anaplastologists are quite capable of handling such graphic images. The overlying theme of this meeting is "synergistic collaboration" and this is a perfect example of a team working together on a challenging case. In this particular case, an initial surgery to save a life was followed by multiple reconstructive surgeries and a face transplant to restore a normal appearance. Each surgery was carefully planned with the help of medical imaging and 3D printed models. Anaplastologists and ocularists participate during the later stages of the rehabilitation process, fitting patients with lifelike prostheses that cannot be recreated surgically.
One other speaker during the morning session worked alongside facial transplant patients, but on the side of the deceased. Minnesota based anaplastologists, Gillian Duncan and Michaela Calhoun of Graphica Medica, were asked to create life masks for the newly deceased who were about to donate their faces. These life masks make open casket possible after the facial transplant, and the mask could be given to the donor's family if they choose to keep it. An impression has to be taken within an hour of the patient's passing, and the anaplastologists have limited time to finish the mask. They must transport all the supplies to location and complete the process in the hospital while the face is surgically removed so the placement of the mask can immediately follow.
Life masks for the deceased are not something anaplastologists normally do, but it generated a lot of interest from the audience. While the morning session focused on options in facial reconstruction, this afternoon's focus is in somato prosthetic reconstruction. Somato prosthesis, literally, is a "body prosthesis." Somato prostheses can include breasts, hands and fingers, feet and toes, and partial body parts. Anaplastologists typically do not deal with weight bearing prostheses unless they also have trainings in prosthetics and orthotics, but a rehabilitation team can include additional members who do. Because my specialty is in the ocular region, the scope of this session is a bit beyond me. It's interesting nevertheless, and if I ever have to make one, hopefully it's given me enough information to figure it out.