A woman who broke her jaw in a childhood cycling accident says doctors at London North West Healthcare NHS Trust have enabled her to look in the mirror without crying, for the first time in two decades.
Gina Katsaitis, 36, underwent two operations at Northwick Park Hospital to correct the defect that caused her face to become “skewed” by the time she was a teenager.
The accountant from Twickenham was six years old when she fell off her bike in her native South Africa. The injury she sustained caused her jaw to grow at an angle, leaving her with a protruding jaw and unable to bite properly. The injury also caused tension headaches and Gina suffered anxiety and depression about the way she looked.
“It became a big complex for me from a young age. I never got round to finding a doctor - life just got in the way,” she said.
“I couldn’t look in the mirror without crying and I used to stand at certain angles when I was having my photo taken. The tension headaches would cause my left eye to water.”
In 2011 Gina moved to the UK and started to search for doctors who could help her. During her search Gina came across Mr Manolis Heliotis, a Consultant Maxillofacial and Oral Surgeon at Northwick Park Hospital.
Mr Heliotis said: “It was clear when I first met Gina that she had low self-esteem. She was shy and worried about her future.”
Mr Heliotis worked with Consultant Orthodontist Mr Victor Crow and his team, who designed dental braces to restructure Gina’s jaw.
Gina underwent the first of two operations in 2015. A second three-and-a-half-hour operation, which involved breaking and resetting her upper and lower jaw, was carried out in October last year.
Gina said: “For the last 20 years, I was not able to look at myself in the mirror. During photographs, I used to always stand sideways. The operation changed everything.
“My bite is much better and I don’t suffer from the terrible tension headaches I once did. The biggest improvement though has been to my confidence.”
Gina celebrated her new appearance and restored self-esteem by marrying fiancé Dimitri in January. She said: “My day was as magical as a fairy tale. I felt like a princess. I posed and smiled for photos without feeling conscious about my face and jaw.”
Mr Heliotis said he was delighted that Gina was so pleased with the results. “That is the reason I do it. It’s exceptionally pleasing to see it go well,” he said.
Gina continues to have regular check-ups with doctors and will continue to wear braces until the summer when she hopes they will be removed.
She said: “I don’t think the NHS gets enough credit. The team at Northwick Park Hospital really looked after me. They did an amazing job and I am very grateful for their efforts from beginning to the end. I could not have made this journey without them and I can’t fault them at all.
“It’s changed my life completely. I don’t cry anymore when I look in the mirror.”