This article is for quizzes on Wednesday June 10th, 2015...

Walter Ernest O'Neil Yeo (20 October 1890 – 1960) was a sailor during World War I, and is thought to be the first person to benefit from advanced plastic surgery, namely a skin flap.
Yeo was wounded on 31 May 1916, during the Battle of Jutland, while manning the guns aboard the battleship HMS Warspite. He sustained terrible facial injuries, including the loss of upper and lower eyelids. There is some uncertainty as to where he was first admitted to hospital, due to the poor documentation. However, he is known to have been admitted to Plymouth Hospital while waiting for a place at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup, Kent, which was granted on 8 August 1917. He was treated by Sir Harold Gillies, the first man to transfer skin from undamaged areas on the body. Gillies' notes on this case indicate that the main disfigurement was severe ectropion as well as waxy scar tissue of the forehead and nose. Gillies opened a specialist ward at Queen Mary's Hospital for the treatment of the facially-wounded. Walter Yeo is thought to have been one of the first patients to be treated with this newly developed technique; a form of skin transplantation called a 'tubed pedicle' flap.

During the long process of surgery, a 'mask' of skin was transplanted across Yeo's face and eyes, including new eyelids. The operation to replace the skin of the midface and forehead took place in multiple stages. The first stage was the outlining of the graft as well as placement of a stent to contour for the nasal dorsum on 12 November 1917. On post-operative day five, a serious infection was noted as well as complications with the stent requiring surgical intervention. On 30 November, the second stage of the surgery was performed which consisted of excision of the scar tissue of the face and transfer of the graft. Again, post-operative infection was a major complication.

author profile image