Thursday, November 20, 2003



This particular article has nothing to do with our life in Italy. If you have any interest in my face lift, read on. If not, check back another day.

Having any type of cosmetic surgery had never crossed my mind. Sure, when I gained weight, I wished for all-body liposuction, but I had never wanted to have larger or smaller breasts, or fuller lips, or a tummy tuck or butt lift. It’s not that I thought I looked perfect, because I certainly didn’t, but because cosmetic surgery is the sort of thing that very rich people have when they are bored. I was neither rich nor bored. I had talked about face lifts with a girl I used to work with, and she made me curious. After gaining and losing weight for many years, and also because of heredity, I was getting a “turkey neck”. When I realized that my mom, who had never weighed over 95 pounds, had a turkey neck, I knew there was no escaping my future.

Last February I went to see Dr Martin Fox, who had been highly recommended to me by several people. I knew I probably couldn’t afford it, but was curious enough to want to see just how expensive it was. After visiting Dr Fox’s office, I knew this was something I would never do…there is no way I could ever justify spending that kind of money for something totally elective. I did think that everyone in Dr Fox’s office was wonderful…very helpful and supportive in every way. They answered all my questions and really made me feel comfortable. I was afraid that I would feel out of place…an average person surrounded by a bunch of rich East-End housewives. Once I realized that this practice included not just elective surgery, but also reconstructive surgery, and that I was being a snob in reverse, I relaxed and felt very comfortable.

I immediately liked Dr Fox. We are the same age, and Dr Fox is originally from New York City. That alone is enough to make me like him…he just has that no-nonsense, New York attitude. He also has a beard and a ponytail, so he has that eccentric hippie look that I also like. His demeanor is so calming and so reassuring…you just KNOW that everything will be all right. He made me trust him implicitly from the first, and he was very specific to tell what WAS and what was NOT possible. I can’t say enough good things about him!

Anyway, that was February. I just sort of filed the information away, thinking I would never need it. I also knew that if I ever did have a face-lift, I would lose some weight first, so as to optimize the results. I have never been able to lose weight because it’s the healthy thing to do. I can only lose weight when I have a specific goal in mind, so I was sure that part wouldn’t be a problem. And when I did lose weight, it only made my neck look worse...which really didn’t seem fair…the more weight I lost, the worse I looked from the neck up!!

Then in May my Mom died, quite suddenly. I had already lost a little weight, and during the time she was in the hospital, I lost even more. It was a difficult time, but my sister and I grew closer, as we discovered how much alike we felt about the various aspects of settling Mom’s estate. One day Terri asked me what was going to be my “splurge”, once we received our inheritance, and I knew immediately that I would have the face lift. Art had encouraged me to have it done before, but being the fiscally responsible person that I am, I told him I just couldn’t do it. For the money my face lift would cost, we could take a wonderful trip to Italy, or anywhere we wanted, and to me, the travel was by far the more important of the two. Now I had the chance to have both the face lift AND the travel! Of course, we had already decided to move to Italy, and had already bought our house. This face lift would allow the “new” me to start a new life in a new country. It just seemed to be the right thing at the right time.

In order to maximize the results and lose as much weight as possible before the surgery, I started with the date we would leave the United States and asked Dr Fox and his staff to help me select an appropriate date for the surgery. I didn’t want to be foolish and have the surgery too close to our departure, just in case there were any unforeseen complications. A date in mid August was selected, and I went to the gym every day, and tried several diets before finally settling on the South Beach diet. I didn’t realize it was the hot new diet, and had to wait a week or so for the bookstore to get in more copies of the book. For me, it seems so common-sense and easy to follow. I think I had the McDonald’s salad with grilled chicken and low-cal balsamic vinaigrette dressing 6 days out of seven for weeks on end. Since I was preparing to move, trying to clean up Mom’s house, and take care of whatever else needed doing, I seemed to be on the road all the time, and this was an easy way to eat healthy. By the time the day of the surgery arrived, I was within ten pounds of my goal, and Dr Fox assured me that another ten pounds wouldn’t affect the results.

Unfortunately, when I went to the hospital on the day of surgery, it had to be postponed. The anesthesiologist thought that my heart rate was too slow…although he said if I was a 24 year old aerobics instructor, he wouldn’t be worried. I viewed it as discrimination for slightly overweight, middle-aged women! I explained to all concerned that I worked out every day, both aerobically and with free weights, and that my heart rate is always low. With the help of Dr Fox and his staff, I was able to have an EKG run the next week, along with a stress test, to prove that for me, a low heart rate was normal. Now came the difficult part…rescheduling the surgery on such short notice. I still wanted to have enough recovery time so that I didn’t have to worry about being overseas and developing problems. At one point I thought I might even have to wait until we returned in December to have the surgery, but because of the generosity and helpfulness of Dr Fox and his staff, the surgery was rescheduled for the second of September.

We arrived at Jewish Hospital early in the morning. The surgery was scheduled for nine a.m. It ended up taking a bit longer that Dr Fox had told us, but this wasn’t a surprise. The nurses at Jewish had already told us what a perfectionist he is…just the trait you want in a plastic surgeon!
I spent one night in the hospital, and went home the next day with the bandages still on. Some of you have seen those pictures of me with the huge foam collar around my neck and the drainage tubes filled with ooze and blood…not a pretty site! My face was puffy and swollen, and numb in many areas. I couldn’t even smile when I first woke up, but as the anesthesia wore off, and the nerves began re-grouping, my facial muscles started to work.

The next day Art took me to Dr Fox’s office, where he removed the foam collar and the drainage tubes. He told me to use warm compresses to help the blood drain, which would decrease the puffiness. I had to sleep sitting up for quite a while. Parts of my face and head were numb. Some parts felt tingly, other parts felt normal. Dr Fox told me that it could be up to six months for everything to return to normal.

I wouldn’t say that I ever had any “pain”. I did have LOTS of discomfort. The pain pills he prescribed kept any physical pain to a minimum, and after a week or so, I was able to decrease the frequency. The worst part was having to sleep sitting up, especially since we were now in the rental apartment, and we had a wrought iron headboard on our rental bed! Not much support there! I felt like a bird making a nest every time I went to bed… first this pillow had to go HERE, then that towel had to be folded up THERE, then THIS pillow went on top of THAT pillow, etc etc etc. And the worst of it was, I never did get comfortable. Being a stomach sleeper, this was definitely a big change.

One week after surgery, I returned to Dr Fox’s office to have some of the stitches removed. I was absolutely terrified! I took a pain pill just before my appointment, just to make sure. I had asked the receptionist about this when I was there the day after the surgery. Being a total baby about pain, I had asked if the would give me something, or if I should bring my own drugs. She laughed and thought I was joking! Not me! Give me drugs, heck, knock me out if possible. But Dr Fox had said that I could drive myself to his office, so all I could do was take a pain pill and hope for the best. Thank goodness all my worrying was for nothing! The stitches under my chin and in front of my ears were removed. This was done by Dr Fox’s assistant, a woman whose name I can’t remember. She and I discussed the fact that many patients insist that the stitches be removed by Dr Fox himself. I had no qualms at all about having someone else remove the stitches, especially since it was a woman. I think a woman just has a gentler touch, and because they generally have smaller hands, they can work more closely and delicately. This was certainly the case for me…although I was braced for the worst, I never even felt the slightest bit of pain. Yes, a few tugs and pulls, but if I can take it, then ANYONE can take it!

After the first week, Dr Fox said I could resume normal activities. I returned to the gym, and after a day or two was back to my regular routine. I guess the worst part was me worrying about bumping something, or finding the right way to put my headphones on! I had been using a headband to hold my in-the-ear headphones on, but this wasn’t possible now…the headband put too much pressure on my still sensitive face and head. Although it sounds contradictory, I’m not a vain person. If I was a vain person, I would never have gone out in public looking like I did! As the excess blood drained from my face, since I no longer had the drainage tubes, it simply responded to gravity, and my chest looked like one giant bruise! My hair, never very good to begin with, was now only able to be washed and dried…forget the curling iron.

Two weeks after surgery, I returned to Dr Fox’s office once more, this time to have the staples (YES!) removed from the back of my head. Although the previous week had been such a pleasant surprise, I just KNEW that having staples removed could not POSSIBLY be fun! After all, I know how you remove a staple from a piece of paper, so I was sure this would hurt. Although I wasn’t taking my pain pills by this time, I did take one just before my appointment, just to be sure. Once again, I was amazed! The same girl who had removed my stitches now removed the staples. I’m not exactly sure what she did, but I think she cut the staple in the middle, and then removed the two sections individually. Once or twice I felt a little “sting”, as the staple proved difficult to remove, but it was nothing unbearable, and it was over quickly. I had also been concerned about the stitches behind my ears…they were still crusted over with thick scabs, and I couldn’t imagine how they were going to remove these. I was quite relieved when I found out that these stitches were the kind that dissolved over time.

In the end, I slept sitting up for about six weeks….this was the worst part for me. I felt like I didn’t get a good night’s sleep for the entire six weeks, but maybe if I had been in my own house, in my own bed, it might not have seemed so bad. The stitches behind my ears took FOREVER to heal. I felt like I was in a horror movie called “The Scab Head”, and I was the star! The incisions on the side of my head and the back of me head were also slow to heal. In fact, today, nearly twelve weeks after the surgery, I still have a few scabby places on the back of my head. The incision on the left side seems to be the slowest to heal. I still have raised welts at the site of the staples. Immediately after the surgery, I had one spot on the top right side of my head that hurt. I don’t know how to describe it, but it was very sensitive…so much so, that I would say that my hair actually hurt! Part of the reason I couldn’t sleep on my stomach was that my face was still bruised, but only to the touch. It doesn’t LOOK bruised, it just feels that way. Even now, it is still somewhat tender to the touch. As I said earlier, nothing really painful, just a lot of discomfort and inconvenience.

One thing I forgot to mention was the day when I stopped by Dr Fox’s office because I was concerned about one of the incisions. I think I just over-reacted because I was sleep deprived! The back of me head was just so uncomfortable, and I just couldn’t seem to lie back against my pillow. I just wanted to ask Dr Fox if the incision was okay, and not infected. As luck would have it, Dr Fox wasn’t in the office that day, but the receptionist asked me to wait, and said that Laura would be right out to talk with me. She said that Laura would call Dr Fox for me, as soon as she was free. The receptionist took me too a quiet room, and within five minutes Laura arrived. I told her about my concerns, and she asked if I would like for one of the other doctors to take a look at me head. I said yes, and within another five minutes I was sitting in an examining room and being looked at by one of the other doctors! I’ve never been seen that quickly WITH an appointment, much less when I just walked in unannounced! I’m not sure it was because this office is so wonderful, or because I had paid this large sum of cash up front! In all fairness, they had already received their payment, so maybe this is the on last doctors’ office that truly cares!

Despite all of this, from the very beginning, it has been obvious that the surgery was a success! Well, maybe after the first week or two, anyway. I am very pleased with the results, and am glad I had it done. I think the best compliment I got was to have people tell me that I still looked like “me”, and that I didn’t have that “surprised” look…think Dyan Canon or Mary Tyler Moore. Just after the surgery, I told Dr Fox that I just didn’t understand people who have one cosmetic surgery after another. Then one day, I looked in the mirror and thought, “Hmmmm, my eyes are SO little, if my eyebrows were just a TINY bit higher, it would really open up my eyes”! Yikes! I had become one of “those people”! Not to worry, I won’t have any more surgery. What money remains will be spent on the house and put away for a rainy day. Besides that, I don’t want my hairline to be any higher than it already it. So, for those of you who have ever thought about it for yourselves, or for those of you who were just curious about my experience, here is it!


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