ModBlog News of the Week: September 23rd, 2011

Alright ModBlog readers, the weekend is almost here and I’m almost done work for the day.  Before I head out the door there is still this week’s news to cover.  Before we get to that, I just wanted to remind you that if you stumble across any news stories that you think should be included in the news of the week, just send me an e-mail.

Now then, lets get things started with a pretty incredible story from the UK.

Doctors have treated a young boy with a large birthmark on his face… by implanting horns in his forehead. George Ashman, 5, was born with a bright red blemish on his forehead and his mother Karen, 33, feared he would endure a lifetime of bullying. So when he was four he underwent a surgical procedure to stretch the ‘normal’ skin on his forehead so the birthmark could be removed and covered with the new unblemished tissue.

Doctors inserted two tissue expanders under the skin, which gradually inflated so they looked like two perfect devil’s horns. After four months the implants were removed and the blemish was cut out, allowing the new skin to be stitched together – leaving just a small Harry Potter-style scar on George’s forehead.

During the four months he had the horns, George was subjected to cruel taunts from passers-by. Karen – who is separated from George’s father Lee, a printer, said: ‘School kids hanging around on street corners were laughing and pointing. ‘Once, a teenage lad came right up to us to have a good look. He uttered a cry of disgust. ‘I was tearful and emotional. I had no problem loving my son but others’ reactions were hard to deal with. I felt like everyone was against us.’ George went under the knife in April this year to remove the birthmark and have his ‘new’ skin stretched across in its place. He has only a small scar where the blemish used to be and has now started school with his friends.

Karen said: ‘What I’m most proud of is that through all this I’ve seen strength in George that I never had as a child. He’s different, but he’s himself – and he has never let it hold him back. ‘My little devil’s got guts – and with or without his birthmark and his horns I’ll always love him to bits for that.’

Even with his head being kid sized, those are probably some of the largest forehead implants I’ve seen.  And to think they got that big after only 4 months.

More news to come including a treatment for amputees, and a new type of prosthetic limb.

While this only falls loosely into the body modification category, it’s still pretty interesting.  Basically doctors have performed a rare surgery that replaced an amputated thumb with a toe.

In the days immediately following the accident, Ramey didn’t care that his thumb was missing; he was alive. But as time passed, he thought about an option UAB Surgeon James Long, M.D., had mentioned in the hospital — he could get a new thumb by transplanting one of his toes.  “Before this happened, if someone had told me, ‘If you ever lose your thumb, we can use one of your toes to replace it,’ I probably would have said I’d never have that surgery,” Ramey says. “Most people don’t want a toe on their hand. After it happens, though, everything changes.”  After several consultations with Long and much deliberation, Ramey decided to have the rare surgery. Long, associate professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery, transplanted the second toe from Ramey’s right foot into the thumb position on his left hand in a 13-hour surgery Aug. 24 — two years and nine days after Ramey had lain in the wreckage of his Subaru Baja.

Long says UAB is one of the few hospitals in the country — and the only one in Alabama — to perform toe-to-thumb transplants. Ramey is the second UAB patient to have the surgery in the past two years.  The majority of publicized toe-to-thumb transplants around the country involve the surgeon relocating the big toe to the hand. But the new thumb isn’t proportioned like a regular thumb, and the lack of a big toe can affect balance significantly, Long says.  Though aesthetics play a role in the transplant decision, Long prefers that not be the primary reason for surgery.  “I always emphasize to patients that function comes before appearance,” Long says. “However, when it’s feasible for us to achieve both goals, we always aim for that.”  For Ramey — a young man with an active lifestyle — removing his big toe was not an option. He favored the transplant only if it could be done using his second toe.  “Cary’s goal was to return to the things he was doing before he got hurt,” Long says. “He never would have been able to do them if his big toe had been used to replace his thumb.”  “I was thinking more about functionality than what it would look like,” Ramey says.

Like I said, it doesn’t fall into any of the traditional body modification categories, but it was something that he chose to have done.  He could have lived his entire life missing his thumb, but instead opted for an elective surgery that modified both his hand and foot.

While on the subject of amputations, a prosthetic company has introduced a new line of prosthetics which can be customized to every little detail, including freckles, hairs, and tattoos.

A prosthetic technology company has unveiled an ultra-realistic range of limbs with features such as freckles, hairs and even tattoos. Scottish company Touch Bionics have been hand-crafting upper limb prostheses for years but have recently introduced a new photographic system that is designed to make passive prostheses look as real as possible.

The products, which come in parts of fingers, whole fingers, hands or arms, are known as passive prostheses – although light joints can be built in so they can be manually bent into different shapes. Made from high definition silicone, they are part of the ‘Living Skin’ range and are designed with the help of a patent-pending imaging system called ‘Living Image’.

If a patient needs a single prosthetic such as a hand or finger, experts use the system to scan the skin tone, features and shape of their remaining limb. The system, which simulates natural light for the best colour match, sends the resulting image via the internet to the production facility in Scotland. The resulting prosthetic is hand-painted to exactly match skin tone and appearance.

Next up we have Montreal native Pat Vaillancourt who is in the process of getting 25,000 internet URLs tattooed on his body.

Yep, so Pat Vaillancourt has 10,012 URL’s tattooed on his back. His goal is to get to 25,000. Each URL must be unique and he is allowed to ink more than one URL into his skin during the same sitting, according to Record Setter (although could you imagine going back to a tattoo parlor 10,012 times for, like, ten minutes?) (sounds like a very special episode of L.A. Ink).

The Montreal-based body art fiend is raising money to help repair the destruction in Haiti by donating half the proceeds from sponsored URL placement to relief efforts, which is awesome.

You know, it’s a great idea, and the money is going to a good cause, but when I look at the photo all I can picture is the text blurring into big square blotches over time.

Today’s final story isn’t really news.  It’s an article examining body modification, gender, and self-empowerment.  It touches on a lot of things I’ve brought up in the past, like how the media portrays modified people, and the bias it places on modified women in general.

Recently I stumbled across this interview with Jacqui Moore, a rather well-known and visible member of the body modification community for her extensive black and grey full body suit. Bearing the rather exploitative tagline (which states “A respectable mother celebrated her divorce by asking her new boyfriend to cover her entire body – with a single TATTOO”), which makes her sound not only impulsive but pathological, what does this case reveal about contemporary body modification practices? What is the relationship between gender, patriarchy, and body modification? And what are the costs of using indigenous iconography and rituals in one’s body modification practices?

If you have time over the weekend, give it a read.

That’s it for this week’s news.  Have a great weekend everyone.

10 thoughts on “ModBlog News of the Week: September 23rd, 2011

  1. Toe to thumb transplant isn’t breaking medical news. Nor is a rare procedure as a solution for a lost thumb. My hand surgeon and others were doing the same operation more than six years ago. Two entire hands were transplanted onto a double hand amputee years ago.

  2. If it was me I’d get those urls turned into squares once they started to blur, that would look so cool

  3. ok, now… just saying, so nobody can’t say there was no warnings:

    this boy was born with the DEVIL’S MARK on his forehead and later he managed to get his DEVIL’S HORNS.
    and nobody or THE CHURCH/TEMPLARS/BUFFY are going to beat this demon?

  4. My old landlord had a toe for a thumb. He lost most of the fingers on his right hand in an explosion, and they replaced his thumb with his big toe. All up he had two fingers and one toe-thumb on that hand and was pretty able and dextrous and all that. It was pretty cool.

  5. “Once, a teenage lad came right up to us to have a good look. He uttered a cry of disgust. ”

    Personally if some kid was mocking my little child like this i would have kicked the shit out of him.Life is tough and he would learn a valuable lesson early: “don’t be a dick”

  6. @ #5: I probably would have too.

    That’s ridiculous but also AWESOME. I love when parts of the more unusual aspects of body modification can be applied to the greater medical community.

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