Prominent plastic surgeon Woffles Wu said plastic surgery is not just about making the rich feel better.
He said he has operated on babies with deformed skulls, people undergoing sex changes and, in one memorable case, an accident victim who had broken every bone in his face. He spent 14 hours operating on that man, putting his skull back together ''as if it were a jigsaw (puzzle)''.
Dr Wu, 58, dished out the details from his memoir Life In Plastic to Straits Times head of training and talent development Lydia Lim at the seventh edition of The Straits Times Book Club yesterday.
Over 300 people attended the session at the National Library headquarters' programme zone. Many were curious about his trade, like how to tell if somebody has had work done. ''The most obvious way is to press it,'' he quipped, for if one could tell, it would not be good surgery.
He expands in his book about his childhood, in which he accompanied his divorcee mother to London at the age of four so she could study law, and the ups and downs of his career and personal life.
Qualified as a craniofacial plastic reconstructive surgeon, he spent 12 years at Singapore General Hospital, then went into private practice in 2000. He pioneered techniques such as The Woffles Lift, which incorporates the use of special threads to suspend sagging facial tissue.
It is a huge responsibility, he said, to take on the risks that come with each operation. A slip of the hand could mean irreparable damage. ''It is a very heavy burden to bear, but that's what we're trained for and part of the excitement and adrenaline of the profession.''
Teacher Frances Chan, 54, found the talk ''very humorous''. Also, ''it gave a good insight about things we wouldn't normally know, like how plastic surgery is done.''
The book club runs every last Wednesday of the month. The next session on Oct 31 will feature clinical psychologist Carol Balhetchet, author of Dr Delinquent, and Institute of Mental Health senior consultant psychiatrist Chong Siow Ann, author of Fieldnotes Of A Psychiatrist.
They will discuss teenage behaviour, psychiatry and mental health with ST journalist Denise Chong. Readers can register at str.sg/oeZU.
- life In Plastic ($35.20) is available from leading bookstores.