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So you think you want to have a facelift?


You’ve visited several plastic surgeons’ offices and had the consultations. That’s the easy part. However, my own experiences were not all that easy.

One plastic surgeon put me into a hospital gown and examined me from head to toe. With his nurse present, he took pictures. Then after I was dressed and sitting in front of him, he asked what I was there for. When I said that I was hoping that he would have some suggestions, he said, “Well, that depends upon how much you want to spend to change your deformities.” What? Thank you very much for the $50.00 insult, Doctor. I left and cried all of the way home. How depressing to think that wrinkles are considered to be “deformities”. So much for local yellow page shopping.

Several birthdays and many wrinkles later, I was still searching. In a conversation I had with a nurse who worked for a dermatologist, she mentioned a plastic surgeon in Orange County, California. His consultation, which took place in a very unattractive office with an unfriendly staff, was quick and costly. For a $100.00 consultation fee, he told me that I needed “the whole enchilada.” For this, his fee would be about $16,000.00. Goodbye.

Two years passed, and another opportunity arose when my daughter made the decision to have some laser skin resurfacing work done around her mouth. She had done her homework, involving research on the internet through a site called PlasticSurgery.com, which took her to The Palm Springs Medical Center, about two hours from our homes. She invited me to come with her on one of her visits to the doctor and have my own consultation. There was no charge, and so I did.

Not only did I like her doctor, I wanted to adopt him. He was very young looking, but he had credentials, he was a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, and he owned his own laser, which shows that he is busy and has had experience.

I felt comfortable talking to him. I liked him and his staff. I could afford his fee. I left with my dignity and hope for things to come. The only problem was that I had to make my appointment for the plastic surgery to be done months in the future. Since I planned to attend my 50th high school reunion, I had hoped for a sooner appointment. However, I was able to place my name on a cancellation list.

Not long after my visit, I came home from a very tough tennis match in which I over extended myself, and I had to hobble into the house. It was my back. Ouch!

My thirty-five year old son happened to be visiting and when I came into the house, he gave me the message that some plastic surgeon’s office called and said that they would call again later. Later I found what I hoped for came true. The doctor called and said that there had been a cancellation, and the date was mine if I wanted to have the facelift/laser surgery in two days. I agreed without hesitation. I was ready!

This was perfect! There was no time to change my mind while having to contemplate it for months and months. I was definitely ready.

“May I ask what that conversation was all about?” my son asked.
“It’s about my having a face lift,” I said, limping away from the phone.
“Oh, I get it, he said, “You’re going to look like a forty year old woman who walks with a cane.”
“Right”, I groaned, but I was excited about what was going to finally happen.

My husband was supportive. He let me know that I had more than earned this, after raising five children and squandering my eyes grading papers for the twenty years that I had spent in the classroom teaching. He let me know that it was okay to try to regain some self-esteem and confidence, or whatever it was that I was “vainly” seeking at this fountain of youth. No guilt here.

Plans were made quickly. My daughter volunteered, actually, insisted on being the person who took me in and waited the five hours it took to ravage my face. We opted to spend the first post op night in a motel close to the medical center. I was given an appointment to see the doctor the next day after the surgery.

Two days later, I was in the operating room, and the last thing that I remember was seeing the doctor drawing with a pen on my eyelids. He turned away, and then back with a needle in his hand, he gently picked up my arm, smiled at me and said, “All of your troubles are over for today.” And so they were.

I have little recollection of the motel suite. Teresa, my daughter, told me that I was very agitated, and that, in spite of medication to calm me, she had to spend hours rubbing my arms and legs with lotion until I was able to sleep through the night. Never mind the face lift, how did I deserve this daughter!?

Okay so far! The first week was spent under Teresa’s watchful eye. She insisted that I move into her guest room for the week. She lives only twenty minutes from my home. I have never felt better cared for. This was something I had not planned on, but she knew it was what I would need, and she provided for my every want---soft foods, lots of liquids, escorts to the bathroom and hourly applications of Vaseline etc.

Later, after I was back home, I asked her about leaving the office and the first night at the motel. She told me that when they brought me out of the recovery room in a wheelchair, she would not have known that it was I, had she not recognized the clothes that I was wearing. My face was swollen to balloon size, and it was swathed in bandages. There were three drains hooked up to my head. Not a pretty sight! This was no shampoo and set procedure. I wore a plastic mask with holes around the eyes, nose and mouth. This kept the Vaseline moist on my face.

Even in Palm Springs, people did stare at my crimson face. It was necessary to have some kind of Greta Garbo get-up for office visits that followed in the next two weeks. There was a regiment of daily do’s and don’t in the first two weeks. I was cautioned not to bend over or to lift anything. I was still quite red, but there were products that the doctor prescribed to take the redness out. If I’d chosen to, I could have gone anywhere. But I chose to stay close to home except for trips to the market. I did all of my regular house routines. However, I had to answer calls and questions from friends who thought that I was home with a back injury. I cancelled dates on the calendar that I would have attended otherwise.

When the swelling subsided and the staples (instead of stitches) were pulled out, I could begin to sleep without meds. Then, all of a sudden, I could recognize the face of the person in the mirror. It was the person I used to look like some years ago. The only problem was that this person had one eye a little more open than the other, and one eyebrow seemed to be higher than the other. This depressed me and I chastised myself for having done this to myself.

Actually, I went through only one day of depression. Each new day afterwards had left me a day closer to the final result. My family enjoyed the transformation too, and made me think that I had made the right choice after all. The doctor quickly reassured me that time would take care of the concern about the higher eyebrow. It was definitely a lesson in patience.

After three weeks, I was allowed to have my hair colored and cut. I was also allowed to apply makeup, including a base by Clinique that covered the redness somewhat. It was called, “Continuous Coverage”. My routine was to cleanse my face with a product called “Cetaphil,” a non-irritating cleaner, followed by application of hydrocortisone cream and then Almay Moisture Lotion #3.

At this point, I had not regained my energy level, even though I had pretty much resumed my regular routine. Twenty-two days after surgery, I got my dimple back in my cheek. My smile looked more natural, but I was still brushing my teeth with a baby tooth brush, as was advised. My neck no longer felt as if it were encased in wax.

I was invited to play bridge at the tennis club, but at just over three weeks past my surgery, I did not feel as if I was ready for across the table scrutiny. So I passed.

On Day 26, I felt tired of looking at my red face in the morning and feeling that I had slept with broomsticks behind my ears. There was still a lot of tightness in that area. Still, I knew that the next day would be better, and it was.

On Day 35, I ventured out to have my nails done. The manicurist could not believe the change in my appearance and asked me for the name of the doctor. After that positive response, I decided to stop by the tennis court to see if I could ease my way back into that scene. Four ladies, with whom I played with, had just finished their match and were sitting with their ice-teas and lemonades under the trees. As I approached, wearing my street clothes, including sunglasses and a straw hat, they began asking where I had been. I said, “I’ve been at home recovering from elective surgery. I’ve had a laser/face lift procedure.” There, it was out, before God and everyone. One lady said that she hoped that my “inner beauty would show through,” which gave me some thought.

I had tested the waters with a few friends, and it gave me encouragement. It is so important to have the support of family, but the approval of friends mattered to me also. A couple of weeks later, I was back at the tennis courts, wearing tennis clothes and ready to play.

Postscript:

Four months after the facelift, I attended my 50th High School Class Reunion. I felt great and relished in the “You were the prettiest girl with the most personality” comment from one of my old classmates afterwards. Apparently, the “inner beauty” came through.

At six months, I saw my doctor for my last post op visit. My routine now consists of regular care using gentle cleansers, moisturizers, and a product called “Kanerase” at night, with lots of sunscreen during the day.

I encourage anyone who is contemplating such a procedure to go for it, but to be prepared to feel and to think differently too. After being retired for twelve years, I am seriously thinking about going back to work. There’s a younger woman inside of me too.


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