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Jan/Feb 2013

World War I and My Mother's Jaw

JAMA Facial Plast Surg. 2013;15(1):9-10. doi:10.1001/2013.jamafacial.6

In 1925, when my mother was 21 years old and had just met my father, her diseased left jaw was removed at a St Louis, Missouri, hospital by a Dr Blair and replaced with her floating rib. That was the story I knew from childhood. She would move her unhinged jaw from side to side to entertain us. Because she underplayed the episode, and because she looked ordinary and lived an ordinary and long life, it did not occur to me until recent years how remarkable her surgery had been, or that the advances in such surgery had been accelerated by the World War of 1914-1918, in which an estimated 280 000 faces were damaged, many in the stalemated trench warfare of the Western Front.