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A surgeon who witnesses the worst of horrors on front line

By Essex Chronicle  |  Posted: March 22, 2012

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CONSULTANT plastic surgeon William Van Niekerk divides his time between treating wounded soldiers and helping burns victims in Chelmsford.

Mr Van Niekerk completed his training at the Broomfield unit a few years ago and regularly flies to Afghanistan to treat soldiers in the scorching deserts.

He also works with the Army in Birmingham, but every Thursday he returns to St Andrew's to help patients from Essex and beyond.

He said: "I work for most of the week in Birmingham treating soldiers that are recovering from burns they have sustained in Afghanistan. Their burns are substantial and I have just come back from a trip out there – I can only say that some of the injuries are horrendous.

"There is nothing worse you can do to the body than burn it. The trauma both mental and physical is very bad. Here you can treat burns easily but it is not like that in Afghanistan. If a soldier is badly injured we fly them back to Birmingham to the military wards."

Originally from South Africa, Mr Van Niekerk flies out to Afghanistan every 15 months and is a specialist in microsurgery, which involves taking tissue from healthy parts of the body to help treat other areas, whether for injuries or plastic surgery.

He said: "I come back to Chelmsford every Thursday as I think St Andrew's is a great ward and I enjoy my work."

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