Croydon athletes may have fallen short in their bid for Olympic glory, but the help of one of the borough’s leading surgeons was critical in Team GB adding to its impressive medal tally.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeon Dr Rishi Bhandari was on call at the Royal London Hospital when women’s hockey captain and star player Kate Walsh sustained a fractured jaw in the team’s opening match against Japan on July 29.
The 37-year-old doctor, born and raised in Crystal Palace, acted quickly to treat the star, and amazingly was able to have her fit and ready to play in the team’s next fixture.
Great Britain, led by Walsh, went on to take the bronze medal, defeating New Zealand 3-1 in the play-off.
Dr Bhandari said: “Kate had a very complex fracture. Usually we would recommend six weeks of rest. The advice we had was she was essential to their medal challenge. It was a very unusual situation, but she was determined to play.”
Using a specially designed facial mask, and with Dr Bhandari on hand on the sidelines for every game, Walsh was released from hospital within 24 hours and played in every game.
Dr Bhandari said: “It was the first time I have been involved with the higher level of sporting injury.
“Usually a fracture like that would be related to a road traffic accident or personal violence.
“We had to administer pain relief during each match, which was a challenge in itself with all the restrictions on drugs that can be used.
“I admit I wouldn’t usually advise playing after such an injury, but at 32 this could have been her last Olympics.”
With the Games over, Walsh remains in the care of the doctor, who studied at Archbishop Tenison’s Secondary School before moving on to medicine.
She visited the hospital with her medal on August 14.