Helping hand for Amy

Two Perth doctors have donated their time and expertise to treat a Mt Hawthorn woman whose injuries made international headlines in June.

Amy Matthews, 21, was on holiday in New Orleans when she was hit by crossfire from a June 29 gunfight on the world-famous Bourbon Street.

The bullet struck Ms Matthews’ right cheek and damaged her teeth, gums, tongue and jawbone.

She returned to Perth for treatment after learning her travel insurance would not cover an extended stay in the USA.

“To get the reconstructive operations done in America I had to wait six to eight weeks for the soft tissue to heal,” Ms Matthews said.

“There was no way travel insurance would put me up in a hotel for six to eight weeks.”

Ms Matthews and her family sought out oral and maxillofacial surgeon Brent Allan after returning to Perth.

Dr Allan then referred her to prosthodontist Glen Liddelow.

Dr Allan and Dr Liddelow are aligned with the Brånemark Foundation, which provides free surgery to victims of accidental facial trauma.

The charity is named after pioneering Swedish orthopedic surgeon Per-Ingvar Brånemark and provides treatment after a committee assessment.

“That may be financial assistance or it might be particular situations like Amy’s where someone needs rehabilitation,” Dr Allan said.

Ms Matthews’ jaw was rebuilt using Bio-Oss, a bone substitute derived from cow bone.

Her replacement teeth were then attached to a titanium structure fitted to the shape of her jaw.

Dr Allan said his experience training in the USA had made him familiar with gunshot wounds.

“I worked for 18 months in Seattle, both as a trainee and consultant surgeon,” he said.

“We saw a number of gunshot wounds.”

The laboratory that did the technical work on Amy’s implants also provided their services for free, Dr Allan said.

He operated on Ms Matthews on August 28.

“They took out the stabiliser bar and the three teeth that were still at the front, because they were pretty much useless,” Ms Matthews said.

She said she felt her recovery was progressing well, but she still experienced some mental trauma from the incident.

“There’s been mental stuff like nightmares and flashbacks which you can find pretty hard,” she said.

“Besides that, I’d say I’m recovering pretty well.”

Money raised from a Facebook group started by her father contributes to counselling sessions for Ms Matthews.

“The counselling is helping for sure,” she said.

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New Orleans woman Brittany Thomas, 21, was killed in the shooting while Ms Matthews was one of nine people injured.

On August 27, the accused shooter pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree murder and nine counts of attempted first-degree murder.

He is yet to face trial.

Ms Matthews said she had not followed the case, but remained in contact with the detective who was leading investigations.

“I kind of ignore it because I find myself getting really mad,” she said.

Ms Matthews said the shooting had changed her perspective on life.

“Before I thought ‘I’m 21, I have ages to do everything’,” she said.

“My perspective has changed

“I want to do things now, rather than next week.”

The change led her to buy a new Staffordshire terrier puppy, Louie.

“I’m always running around after her,” Ms Matthews said.

She said she intended to return to the USA despite the shooting.

“I missed out on half a holiday that I spent a lot of time planning,” she said.

“I don’t think you can have one moment in your life stop you from doing something you really want to do.”

Photography: Alasdair Beer

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