RAIPUR: The smile is back on the face of Chopse Sangtam nearly a year after a bullet fired by Maoists went through his skull, destroying his right eye and a chunk of the bone above it and disfigured his face.
The young BSF jawan was airlifted in critical condition from the site of the encounter in Bastar in south Chhattisgarh to the Ram Krishna Care private hospital in Raipur, where his life was saved by the efforts of a team of doctors who conducted multiple surgeries on him.
Though he survived, the gunshot wound — the bullet had entered the skull through the front and exited from the side — had left his face disfigured and barely resembling the photograph on his identity card. That made the 26-year-old Naga battalion jawan depressed.
Sangtam mixed with his colleagues, but he was no longer the jolly young man they had known. His indomitable spirit had gone, with the facial disfigurement making him conscious of his appearance and, consequently, unhappy.
“I began losing hope of looking normal and living a married life. I survived, but then...”, the jawan’s anguish was apparent from the way he stopped mid-sentence. He began exploring medical options that could restore not only his face but also his faith in returning to a regular and meaningful life.
His colleagues took him to the government dental college in Raipur, where he was referred to Dr Neeraj Chandrakar, a prosthodontist, with whom he shared his desire to live a better life. “Theek ho jayega na sirji?” Sangtam asked, and was buoyed by the doctor’s assuring reply.
The case was taken up by a team of four doctors at the dental hospital — one prosthodontist and three maxillofacial surgeons who conducted a reconstructive surgical procedure on him.
“We used a new technology, surgical planning software, to get the orientation of the final outcome. With the help of 3D printing technology, a custom cranial implant for the affected part of the skull was created. Follow-up assistance from a private firm, Changing Faces India, was taken”, Dr Chandrakar said.
Sangtam recovered normal facial contours after a team of doctors led by Dr Biju Papachan placed the custom cranial implant in a procedure that lasted about an hour and a half. A custom eye prosthesis placed later by Dr Chandrakar gave the final touch to the reconstruction procedure. The procedure, which normally would have cost about `40,000, was conducted without charge, the doctor said.