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Teenager whose face was rebuilt after horror horse accident 'cannot thank NHS enough'

A teenager who suffered some of the worst facial injuries her doctors have seen outside a war zone following a horrific horse riding accident has said she can't thank those who helped her enough.

Emily Eccles, 15, has written to the Queen asking for a knighthood for the surgeon who treated her after she was left with just one centimetre of skin keeping her jaw attached to the rest of her head.

It happened after she smashed into a gatepost while out riding her horse near Baslow, in Derbyshire, in August.

Speaking to ITV News, Ms Eccles said: "I can't thank them enough, from everybody from the first responder who was there straight away," to those who did surgery on her jaw.

"I can't put into words how grateful we are for the NHS, the Sheffield Children's Hospital and everybody was has supported me so far."

She added: "I don't remember hitting the floor or standing back up, just one minute my chin was on the post and then I was stood up looking down at what I was holding."

She admits when she looks at the images she struggles to "believe it's me because I never saw me as that, so it's surreal really".

Emily Eccles said her surgeon Credit: PA

Emily was taken to Sheffield Children’s Hospital after finding herself on the floor, holding what remained of the bottom of her face in her hands.

But consultant facial reconstructive surgeon Ricardo Mohammed-Ali rebuilt her face in a five-and-a-half hour long operation which was such a success, the teenager was back at school for the start of term, just a month after the accident.

Now, two months on, she is seeing her scars fade by the day and hoping to persuade her parents to let her ride again.

Her surgeon said he was "extremely pleased as to how she has progressed," just a few weeks on from her surgery.

He explained how he had asked a junior member of his team to re-explain the injury after being told about it during a phone call, somewhat in disbelief at the extend of the damage caused to Ms Eccle's face.

Speaking about the immediate aftermath, Ms Eccles said she remembers catching something red which flashed in front of her face as she fell.

She said she wasn't "100% sure" what she was holding in her hand after the accident, but instead had "a million different things" going through her head.

It was only after she got into an ambulance did she become aware of the extent of her injuries.

Miraculously, Mr Mohammed-Ali pieced together Emily’s face using three titanium plates, more than 160 stitches and managing to save all but one of her teeth.

The teenager, who is studying GCSEs at Wales High School, near Sheffield, and is also a talented skier, said horrified friends thought her injuries were like “some kind of zombie”.

CT Scan 3D Image of injuries to Emily Eccles Credit: Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation/PA

Emily said she first tried not to look at her injuries, but accidentally switched on her selfie camera as she was messaging a friend.

“It was like something you see in a film, it was really quite horrific,” she said.

“At first I was thinking, I don’t know what I’m going to do, I’m not going to look like me, I’m not going to have the same kind of life as I did before.”

Now the teenager is thanking Mr Mohammed-Ali for a recovery her mother has called “miraculous”.

“He said that in a year’s time, from speaking distance, you won’t even be able to tell that anything’s happened,” Emily said.

She said: “We can’t thank him enough. Everything that he’s done in his career up to that point led up to him being on call that night. If anything had gone any differently, I might not have had a bottom jaw.”

Emily said she has written to the Queen to get the surgeon a knighthood and received a personal letter straight back from her secretary saying it had been referred to the relevant body.

“Saving people’s lives and getting them back to normality definitely deserves some sort of recognition,” she said.

Emily Eccles during her recovery Credit: Family handout/PA

Emily lives in a village just outside Sheffield with her teacher parents Michelle, 50, and Chris, 48, brother Sam, 17, and their two dogs.

She said she wanted to get back in the saddle but "it’s my parents I have to convince”.

Mum Michelle said she was “still thinking about it”.

Mr Mohammed-Ali said: “It could have been worse, but it is one of the most significant injuries that I have seen in a child outside of areas of conflict.”

He said: “Emily’s injury was significant in that the entire left side of her lower jaw from the front of the jaw to the joint was pulled away from the face and only retained by a small strip of skin.

“The nerves that supply sensation to the lip and chin was torn on both sides. Branches of the facial nerve that move the muscles of the lower lip were severed on both sides. The lower part of Emily’s face was only attached by a piece of skin.”

He added: “I am extremely pleased with her recovery so far.”

The family said they are determined to support The Children’s Hospital Charity’s fundraising to help improve the Emergency Department and provide a helipad above the hospital.

The air ambulance was called to Emily’s accident but it was decided to go by road, partly because the helicopter currently has to land in a park opposite the building, her family said.