(Photography by Kevin Van Paassen)
When Brenda Coulter got into her car in June 2014, she never could have imagined the long, challenging journey that lay ahead.
While she was driving to work along Highway 403, a piece of metal – likely from a truck – flew up and smashed through Brenda’s windshield. It sheared off most of her face, irreparably damaging her left eye.
More than a dozen surgeries followed to rebuild Brenda’s skull and facial bones, which are now three-quarters titanium.
To fill her empty left eye socket, Brenda was fitted for an adhesive prosthesis. But with limited vision in her existing eye, gluing it into place was a long and finicky process that often ended in failure.
“Without my prosthesis, people would stare and ask difficult questions,” she says. “But there were many days I couldn’t get it on properly, so I would give up and just stay home.”
Two years ago, Brenda learned she was eligible for treatment in the Craniofacial Prosthetics Unit, an innovative program offered through Sunnybrook’s Department of Dentistry. Following a rigorous planning process, head and neck surgeons implanted specialized screws into the delicate bone around her eye. After several months of healing, they were able to secure magnets into her eye socket. Then, specialists met with Brenda again to begin fitting and sculpting her new prosthesis.
In a process where medicine and artistry intersect, the team builds lifelike eyes, ears and noses for patients with congenital facial differences or who have survived illness or trauma.
For Brenda, the result was a perfectly fitted eye prosthesis that, thanks to the magnets, snaps precisely into place.
“I’m thrilled with the results, which are so natural,” she says. “It’s nice to interact with people again. Interaction as opposed to reaction.”
Brenda says putting on her new eye is easier than putting on a pair of earrings.
“I just snap it on, and wow, my face is whole. I’ve finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Read an interview with Brenda at Sunnybrook.ca/BrendaCoulter
In the video below, she shares her story: