A man made an extraordinary recovery after he broke every bone in his face when accidentally falling from the three-storey balcony. Software engineer Justin Starks, 24, landed on his chin, breaking every bone in his face, but miraculously he suffered no brain damage or fractures to his skull in the fall on November 31, 2021.
He broke all of the 14 facial bones, which included both inferior nasal concha, his lacrimal bones, mandible, maxilla bones, nasal bones, palatine bones, the vomer and zygomatic bones. Justin, who is originally from Georgia, was at his home in Stanford, California, said: “While I do not remember the impact, I do know that I landed on my chin.
“I know that because my chin split open and reverberated throughout the rest of my face and broke literally every single bone in my face; my jaw on both sides, my nasal bone. The doctors were extremely shocked to see the damage to my face, But specifically, the fact I had no fractures to my skull at all.”
Justin had to go through two intense surgeries to save his own face. A third one is scheduled for later this year. He added: “The last thing I remembered was being on my balcony, I don’t actually remember falling, I don’t remember hitting the ground.
“The EMT said something about Stanford and when he said that I recognized it and woke up. but apparently, I wasn’t unconscious I was speaking to the paramedic. A lot of people tell me ‘oh my god that must be the most painful experience imaginable,’ but I simply do not remember.”
Starks’ injuries were so severe that the doctors and medical professionals around him had to model, and 3D print 90 screws and 30 plates that were placed along the remaining bones. The modern technique was seen in detail during an MRI scan where the plates glowed bright blue across his whole face, he said “the CT scan makes my face light up like a Christmas tree.”
Starks’ road to recovery began in December 2021 when he had his initial surgery and spent two weeks in the hospital, which involved fusing his jaw back together after it was split in two, which resulted in the wiring shut of his mouth. This dramatically changed his eating habits as he could only have a clear-liquid diet initially, which was basically “broth and water”, gradually progressing to soft porridge-style meals that he didn’t ‘ “need to chew.”
His second round of surgery was a month later in January on Martin Luther King Day and was the main reconstruction surgery. The gruesome procedure involved doctors cutting across the top of his head from ear to ear and “peeling” his face off and “putting him back together.”
Starks was in the intensive care unit for three days following the surgery and the progress he made up until that point was set back. He said that he gained some strength in between the first and second surgery, even going on five-mile walks and talking with his mouth closed.
After the second surgery, his strength was reduced, and he felt “weak generally” having to be carried upstairs by his dad and brother. By February he began the bulk of his recovery and regaining the strength that he had lost.
By the end of the month, he was working out in the gym and had even begun working again as a software engineer. By May he said the swelling had reduced massively and the facial reconstruction “was looking pretty good”.
His injury didn’t just come with the physical damage but carried some mental health issues as well. Justin had to see a psychiatrist for issues relating to post-traumatic stress disorder.
The 24-year-old also lost 30lbs in two months after having is mouth wired shut, which meant he could only eat liquid-based food. After the second facial reconstruction surgery, Starks’ face began to swell on the left side.
He said the bout of facial swelling that he endured prompted some insecurities with the way he looked. He said: “I used to consider myself a pretty attractive guy and to go out and look in a mirror and see my face swollen and puffy and not what I wanted it to be.
“I did have some insecurities about that.” But despite these insecurities, Starks said that he had seen improvements each week that goes by compared to the previous week, saying “I do think I look pretty good all things considered.”
The whole facial reconstruction surgery will take around one year to properly complete and recover. Starks is set to have another surgery that addresses problems with the roof of his mouth and his teeth.
Once the third and final surgery is complete, he said that he will be on his way to feeling “one hundred percent normal.”