By Christina Lemmo
A member of the cleftAdvocate Family
Published at cleftAdvocate with permission of the author.
© 2002 Christina Lemmo All Rights Reserved
I can remember the day earlier this spring when, while driving in my car, that the teasing from a neighboring car and its passengers really stuck in my mind. For some reason, my guard was down so that the comments really hurt. Throughout my life I have always been teased even as an adult, it is part of one's "life experience" when living with a cleft lip and palate. My reaction to that particular episode was not exemplary at all, but it served a purpose by allowing me to seriously consider having more surgery. "More surgery?" Did that thought come from me? Hello!! Since when have I "chosen" to have surgery done? Isn't that why I stopped having operations after meeting the requirements for my rehabilitation. Surgeries on my face that started at the age of 6 and 1/2 weeks of age and continued to the age of 28. After a ten year hiatus, strange as it may seem, I was "ready" for more.
Luckily for me I already had a particular reconstructive/plastic surgeon in mind and he came highly recommended. My former reconstructive surgeon had since retired due to medical reasons. Dr. X had been my surgeon since the age of eight. Now I would have to enter into a new relationship with a different surgeon - similar to breaking in a rookie. The surgical skills are his while the face "in his hands" is mine. His results will be the first thing that others see when looking at me. With all this in mind, I still decide to have the consultation and knew exactly what I wanted as results.
When we met, I explained my expectations - reduce the bulk from the tip of my nose; repair a previous cartilage graft which "fell" (literally) in to disrepair. I wanted my nose to be turned up or rotated - just enough to create a good (normal) appearance, without giving me a "Miss Piggy" nose. That we both could agree on this was a good first step.
Unlike the other surgeries that were done in the past, I went into the planning stages of this one basically prepared for the fact that insurance would not pay any of the related costs. "Okay" I gulped, just how much is this going to cost? The doctor told me the cost. Expensive, yes, but even so I decided to forge ahead. Then I had to contend with scheduling difficulties but after some negotiations, a new date was established. Much to my surprise though, my surgeon was able to have the surgery covered. True it was a "nose job" but it was not being done for vanity but rather for approaching a more normal looking nose.
By now I had accomplished the first two P's - plans and price. Now for the dreaded third P - pictures, taken by medical photographers. They should be called medical mug shots. On July 31st, I had my final pre-surgery consultation - those mug shots were covered with angles and degrees that would lead to my THIRD new nose. He showed me a "before" photo covered by a plastic sheet reflecting the new contours of my nose. It was absolutely remarkable. On the basis of what was shown to me, I became increasingly more excited about the surgery.
Finally the big day arrives and I am prepared for the 4 hour ordeal. My doctors and I spend 15-20 minutes reviewing the plans for one last time. After the surgery and a little bit of time spent "recovering", I was able to go home. It didn't take long to hear what the reactions were from others - people looking at me. Those who looked at me saw the results almost immediately. "Great, I thought but, will the difference be so visible to me? As the person behind the nose (so to speak), I would probably be the last one to appreciate any changes that have been made.
I looked in the mirror and around the splint and couldn't believe what was, or more truthfully, wasn't there, which was about half my nose. The "new" me in the mirror had a shorter, thinner nose which was more equally shaped nose. The person in the mirror was me. Unlike the other two times that my appearance was drastically changed through surgery, I could appreciate it almost immediately. In turn, I could hardly wait to point it out to others. At that moment I could see that this new nose really belonged on this face. To me! It was worth every nervous thought and moment I have spent in the last few months while anticipating this surgery. This is my new nose, it fit, looked great on me. Even better than the last two. It is not "perfect" but after a journey of 38 years, it is one of the biggest steps towards "normal" that I have ever taken. Would I do it over again? As the saying goes it's as plain as "the nose on your face."