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The day my face exploded; By TV DOCTOR SASKIA.

he patient was in agony. Weak with pain, she was on the verge of collapse, and emergency surgery was the only answer.

Just the sort of medical drama they take in their stride every week on the hit TV show Peak Practice.

This crisis, however, was no figment of the scriptwriters' imagination. Actress Saskia Wickham had gangrene - and without that emergency operation the beautiful blonde could have been disfigured for life.

Saskia plays sensible GP Dr Erica Matthews in the show, which is back on your screens in a fortnight's time, but admits she's not the cleverest when it comes to diagnosing her own pains.

She thought she had a bad case of toothache while filming scenes in windy Derbyshire last month, so she dosed herself on painkillers and tried to put it out of her mind.

Saskia, 30, says: "At the end of one day my face just exploded and I told the producers they just had to find me a dentist, which they did at 10 o'clock that night.

"By then I was in tears, but he put a sedative dressing on the gums on one side of my mouth and I managed to be back on set the next day.

"But when I got back to London at the end of the week to see my own dentist, he took one look and phoned the Peak Practice office to say they'd have to rearrange the schedule.

"I had gangrene in both the upper and lower jaw and I had to have an operation that day." It turned out Saskia had been grinding her back teeth while she slept, breaking two and driving fragments into her gums.

"Apparently bacteria crept in and because I'd not done anything, gangrene had formed," she says.

"I could have lost sections of the jaw bone, but luckily it was enough for them to remove nerves and part of the gum.

"Then I had an asthma attack under the anaesthetic, but as there were two surgeons they coped, thank goodness."

Still in great pain, she returned to complete the episode of the show due to be screened next month. But the medical crisis wasn't over yet.

Saskia says: "I was given these really strong painkiller tablets and I took them while I was filming.

"But towards the end of the day, I felt very faint and thought I would be sick.

"I couldn't stand up and I had to be carried off to my trailer.

"So I rang the doctor and asked him if the gangrene was coming back.

"He was horrified. He said: 'No wonder you feel bad again. I gave you those pills to take lying down on a bed in a darkened room, not charging around the countryside in freezing rain!'"

Saskia, whose sister-in-law Jo is a real-life GP, admits: "I have all this medical jargon to say in the script.

"But obviously I haven't learned anything."
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Kingsley, Hilary
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 29, 1996
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