Episode 15 — Chapter 17
Dr. Hale examined the photographs at the desk of his satellite office in the adjacent medical office tower. The doctor was quite impressed with the quality of several of the pictures, considering they were all taken in the early twentieth century. He willowed out pictures depicting a somewhat older-looking man, leaving him with seven photographs which appeared to be close to the patient’s stated age.
This will be far better than an artist’s rendering, if the man truly resembles Ty Cobb.
Anxious to see the patient’s reaction, Dr. Hale hurried through the annex which connected the medical tower to the hospital.
“I’ve got the photographs you asked for—from the Detroit Press.” Dr. Hale said with an enthusiastic smile, though he had no idea where they came from. “Take a look at these and let me know which one best resembles your pre-accident face.” The doctor handed one photograph at a time to the patient.
The first two photographs were quickly placed on the patient’s lap. The third photograph received more scrutiny and it was placed adjacent to the other two. After all photos had been handed to him, there were two stacks—one with five pictures and the other with two.
The patient took turns examining the two photographs which had been separated from the rest. He finally handed one to the doctor that showed a headshot of Ty Cobb wearing a white Tiger cap and black bill. His uniformed collars were fastened upward with a pin. He had a slight grin on his face and the photograph showed his features distinctly.
“So, that’s the one that resembles you the most?” Dr. Hale took it from the patient.
The patient motioned for the pad and pencil.
He wrote with a flourish: IT IS ME.
“Fine. That other photo you were also studying. Is that a good rendition, too? Sometimes, it’s better to have more than one picture.”
Dr. Hale stared at the second photograph of Cobb, once again in a Detroit uniform, but without a hat and from a slightly different angle. There was a handwritten inscription on the picture: “To Mac.”
“Okay. We’ll use this one too. We just need to be absolutely certain that this is your face… that this is what you want to look like. Once we start the reconstructive work, place the implants, it will be nearly impossible to redo the work. Do you understand?”
The patient wrote again: EXPLAIN
“Well, the first thing we do is to create a three-dimensional model of your face. With the photographs you’ve selected, we will be able to do just that. Essentially, we plan the surgery using the model and actually determine in advance the placement of the broken bones. In this way, we can provide far greater precision. We’ll be using high-strength implants to insure that you have the underlying bone structure. While the use of titanium implants is common, I’ve recently had excellent success with a multi-layered collagen-based compound of porcine submucosa for the orbital floor reconstruction.
“We will use an x-ray CT scan to create minutely detailed images in three dimensions, which will then provide the design for the implants. We essentially perform the surgery in a virtual reality setting first. In this way we hope to be able to anticipate and avoid problems with the procedure itself. 3D technology enables us to specifically design the implants. Computer images are used as design guides for cutting and positioning the facial bones with pinpoint accuracy.”
The patient’s eyes began to glaze over.
“I’m sorry if I’m making it sound too technical. The long and short of it is that we’re going to try to re-create your face just as it was before the accident. I’ve been doing this for years, my father before me and my grandfather as well—Grandpa Hale was a surgeon during World War I. Back then they used artists to create a likeness of the soldier before his injury. They then made a sculpture of the face and used that to restore the soldier’ features. That’s similar to what I’ll be doing with you, using the photographs to make a three-dimensional image of your face and features.”
The patient’s eyelids closed.
“We can’t put this off any longer, otherwise the results may be compromised. I’ve scheduled the procedure for tomorrow morning.”
Back in his office, Dr. Hale studied the two photographs that his patient had selected. He wondered if there were more photos of the ancient Ty Cobb that might provide other perspectives and profile. He was amazed at the number of photographs of the younger Cobb available online and added several more photographs. He scanned each photograph and began the laborious task of creating the three-dimensional model for the patient. It was an intriguing and provocative undertaking to fashion a face in the image of a man who had lived more than a hundred years ago and Dr. Hale felt himself caught him in the experience, working well into the evening hours before completing the computer model. If everything went smoothly, the face of the legendary Ty Cobb would be resurrected to near perfection.