Insight: Hero Doctors
'Outpatients', the cosmetic show about more than just the pretty faces
The medical mind behind the TV show 'Outpatients' is using aesthetic and cosmetic technology to give people who've suffered terribly the chance to not only heal their physical scars but also to change their lives
Aesthetic medicine might be viewed through a lens of vanity, but for some it proves to be restoring to the soul.
Dr Cathy Davies, the co-producer and medical mind behind Outpatients, now airing on Fox Life, has taken the restorative processes of aesthetic and cosmetic medicine to those who might have thought physical trauma to their skin, hair or features could never be fixed.
People such as Qaphela Gobodo, a youngster from Cape Town, who was disfigured after being set on fire by his schoolmates, envious of his rugby scholarship.
Or teenager Courtney Sparrow, who was mauled by lions as a child growing up on a Zimbabwe game farm.
Gobodo had restrictive burn scarring on his face and hands and lost much of his hair; Sparrow needed an eyebrow transplant.
Johannesburg-based Davies says the purpose of her medicine is to help people live better lives in spite of the cards dealt them, using technology that defies nature.
"I have been a doctor for 20 years, a GP working in aesthetic medicine, and I must say my focus was 90% on restoring hair and transplants in vain, balding men. But my passion is helping people recover from injuries and trauma. I've had to close the aesthetic side of my practice and dedicate my time to rehabilitation."
The show deals with everything from scarring to autism treatment and ground-breaking stem-cell therapy, as well as therapy for motor neuron disease, fixing pigmentation caused by skin lightening, and male-pattern baldness.
Whatever the specific need for the treatment, though, Davies seems to also transplant confidence.
"I always say that I love helping people who need help, as well as people who want to look better and feel better. There are so many good people out there, people who have brought patients for me to help. I met Qaphela on Instagram because of the show. I have received requests from all over Africa, and if I can't help, I refer them. All my colleagues in aesthetic medicine are doing pro bono work, and that gives me hope," she says.
Davies, who admits to doing "bathroom procedures" on herself, says the technology around new regenerative methods - such as using the body's own cells for restoration, grafting fat to heal a wound, stem-cell therapy and more - is revolutionary. "We use blood for stimulating hair follicles, to stimulate skin and scar treatments. It is developing at a rapid pace."
While the narratives are touching, the show it is not a collection of sob stories. Nor is it frivolous. It highlights a revolutionary aspect of medical science.
Episodes feature a jockey who needed shoulder rehabilitation after he was trampled by his horse, a toddler who survived a petrol-bomb attack, and a cancer survivor being treated for hair loss. Though many of the procedures are cosmetic, the treatments also impact on another level. Davies says Gobodo not only came close to losing his life but also lost the scholarship that would have changed his family's fortunes.
"He saw the worst of humankind and survived. Imagine being doused with paraffin and set on fire. He was brave enough to run from one tap to another and save himself. Even though he lost his scholarship, he didn't want revenge. What happened to him didn't change him," she says.
Gobodo was so severely burnt that his ears barely remain and he has lost most of his hair. Davies suggested a permanent makeup artist to create the appearance of hair, and arranged pro bono mesotherapy, in which vitamins are injected into the skin, and carboxytherapy to reduce the thickness of the scars. Restoring flexibility to his skin may also improve his sporting ability.
And the young man has received another scholarship.
"I want to finish school, get an education and work on my rugby," he says. "It will help my mother, so she can stop working as a domestic worker and I can help to pay for my sister's school fees."
The show, meanwhile, is set to reach bigger audiences after Off the Fence, an international distributor, picked it up this month.
The show's producer, NV Studios CEO Damien Brown, says: "Having Outpatients distributed by a powerhouse international partner like Off The Fence is going to put it in front of millions of viewers around the world and show off the powerful work that Dr Cathy does."
• 'Outpatients' is on Fox Life (channel 126 on DStv and DStv Now App)