"A Life That Matters": Dr. Ken Salyer At Library 8/23

There will be time, there will be time. To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet,” T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

A Life That Matters - Book Cover“We present ourselves to the world foremost with our faces,” Dr. Kenneth Salyer explains, “and the people we meet initially look to our faces to ascertain who, in fact, we are.”

But what if you had the misfortune to be born like John Merrick, the “Elephant Man?’ Merrick was so deformed he could not express any emotion at all. Responding to an impulse to turn away rather than look inside, such an dark and outrageous trick of fate made it difficult for others to discover the warm, intelligent, urbane individual that was Merrick. In short, his face hid his soul.

John Merrick is an extreme case to help make a point (or two) about a man whose leads a life that matters.

“A Life That Matters,” Dr. Salyer’s latest book, chronicles his crusade as a craniofacial surgeon to help thousands of the world’s most unfortunate children. Through his skill (and artistry), thousands of young people suffering from terrible head and facial deformities got to grow up with faces that allow them to know they are part of the human community, assured that they are ordinary in the very best sense of the word, fully capable of being loved.

Dr. Ken Salyer talks about “A Life That Matters,” (publisher Hachette), Friday,  August 23, 6 p.m., at the Wilkinson Public Library, in collaboration with Between the Covers Bookstore.

As he writes in the introduction to the book, Dr. Salyer is “convinced that possessing a face you aren’t forced to hide is a fundamental human right—as important to a fully lived life as freedom from fear or want.”

People like him, as rare as they are, often visit Telluride, with Mountainfilm generally in charge of laying out the welcoming mat.

People like Dr. Rick Hodes. The film “Making the Crooked Straight,” which screened at Mountainfilm, tells the story of this remarkable man who helps patients mostly in Ethiopia, his adopted country, stricken with spine disease (both tuberculosis of the spine and complex scoliosis), creating massive humps of the back, which in turn affects the lungs and diaphragm and if left untreated is fatal.

People like Geoff C. Tabin, who dedicated his life to curing preventable blindness in remote locales such as Nepal and throughout the Himalayas through his Himalayan Cataract Project. At this year’s Mountainfilm, Jordan Campbell’s moving doc, “Duk County,” told the story of Tabin and associate Dr. Alan Crandall who traveled to the Southern Sudan (at great personal risk) to perform eye operations.

Dr. Kenneth E. Salyer has a slightly different story. He does not just visit Telluride. He has been coming to Telluride since 1952, when his parents brought him for a stay at the Skyline Guest Ranch. Since then, he has returned to live here part time when his peripatetic life permits.

“I love this place like no other.”

Dr Kenneth Salyer

Dr Kenneth Salyer

Dr. Salyer is a pioneer in cranofacial surgery, whose groundbreaking career spans nearly half a century. He is the first Chairman of the Department of Plastic Surgery, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and founder of the International Craniofacial Institute and Cleft Lip and Palate Treatment Center, Dallas, Texas. Dr. Salyer has treated over 13,000 patients from 75 countries and every state and performed over 16,000 surgical procedures. Although he stepped down from his full time practice helping indigent children and their families in developing countries around the world, Dr. Salyer continues to run his nonprofit, the World Craniofacial Foundation. As a young doctor, he was in the Dallas ER when JFK was brought in. In 2003, Dr. Salyer led the team that separated the two conjoined Egyptian twins, Ahmed and Mohamed, a 34-hour operation that made international headlines.

In “A Life That Matters,” Dr. Salyer narrates his rise from ailing Midwestern kid to crusader for children across the globe.

To learn more, click the “play” button and listen to our conversation.

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