The Surgery Experiment

Have you ever had to do something every once in awhile to remind yourself why you don’t do it?

cottoncandyI did this periodically with cotton candy. I loved it’s sweet sticky mouth-staining goodness when I was a kid, but when I got older I appreciated it much less. In fact, it became rather abhorrent. But about once a decade, I would feel compelled to give it a try to remind myself that indeed, it no longer fit my culinary tastes. The last time I was probably in my thirties, and that was convincing enough that I now consider myself cured of ever needing to try it again.

I recently did something similar with elective facial surgery. You may think that’s a little more extreme than cotton candy, and you’d be right!  However, this was a smaller procedure that I believed might actually improve a quality of life issue- it was important that any procedure I agreed to address a quality of life issue, and not just be cosmetic.

The surgeon had also suggested a much more extensive procedure, but I deemed it to be unnecessary and far too invasive. You can read the details on the one I didn’t do in a previous blog titled Facial Reconstructive Surgery; Improvement or Not?

Since movement on the left side of my face is limited, my left eye doesn’t blink on its own. This leaves it open and susceptible to drying out, and subsequently watering, dripping tears down my face at inopportune moments.

The procedure I opted for was designed to help the eye close more easily, which would decrease the drying surface and help it maintain lubrication. It would accomplish this by using a tendon from my wrist like a sling to pull up the lower lid while inserting a small gold weight into my eyelid to help it come down.

Surgery in the modern age: computer monitors and LED lights.

It was my first surgery I’d allowed on my face in 29 years. My memories of what it was like to have surgery were a little behind the times. When I was wheeled into the operating room, all the monitors struck me as being more like a sports bar than a medical facility. Basically, surgery had entered the digital age.

One aspect I appreciated was that instead of just covering you in warm blankets, they pumped warm air all around you. Between nerves and a chilled environment, I tended to shiver, and this definitely helped. They also thought more about my comfort, putting a pillow under my knees to help my back.

What wasn’t new is that needles still hurt, the IV needles are still very long, and the anesthesia is just as quick to put me under. Yet I was also impressed at how quickly I recovered once I woke up. I had a friendly volunteer there to greet me with a smile and a genuine interest in my well-being.

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This was taken on the way home from surgery. It had been a outpatient procedure.

The surgery itself went fine. I had three new scars to add to my collection: on my left wrist where they’d removed the tendon; a small one below my left eyebrow marking the attachment point of the tendon; and my eyelid which bulged out due to the addition of the gold weight.

I was reminded that pain still hurts, scars still itch, and areas go numb as the nerves rebel. (The nerves generally recover in time, but not always.)

In terms of healing, my wrist became usable far faster than I expected- in fact they encouraged me to use it. My eyelid was swollen and droopy- more droopy than I preferred- but I decide to see how it looked once it had healed.

About a month later, two out of the three incision areas were looking great. My post-op appointment had gone fine, but then I started to notice something odd when I looked in the mirror. Was that a glint of…? No, couldn’t be.

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Just call me Golden Eye. In this case, all that glitters actually WAS gold.

But finally I could deny it no longer. The mirror displayed an unmistakable glint of gold. The incision had failed to close properly. I took a selfie and sent it to my doctor (another advantage of the digital age), and an appointment was set up to have it removed.

This turned out to be quite the chore. It was an in-office procedure, and the surgeon basically grabbed on and pulled. It was stuck- tied in by sutures that were supposed to have dissolved. The local anesthetic did nothing the numb the area, so I got to feel the full force of the effort. They even denied me whiskey! (The nerve!)

I was told that I could have the gold insert put back in 3 months once the healing was complete.

No, thank you. I’ll pass. I don’t want to put myself through that again, and besides, the eyelid had been much droopier than I’d anticipated. Had it healed properly and stayed like that, I might have opted for it’s removal anyway!

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Here is the insert on the outside of my eyelid to give you a idea of scale.

I hadn’t realized until I actually saw the insert just how big it was. (Yes, I kept it. I paid for it, after all.)

It just figures that something would go wrong.

I’ve not been a huge advocate for surgery as a solution for facial differences (except when improved function and/or comfort are concerned), and this latest procedure reminded me of why I feel that way. It’s not a cure for insecurity, vanity and low self-esteem.

Besides, surgery seems to require a constant rearrangement of body parts, and I really didn’t need the extra scars.

I don’t blame my surgeon- he and his staff were very professional- but that’s just it. There are always SO many things that can go wrong. This is my fourth surgery that involved a complication that I am aware of, and the third in which something that was done had to be undone.

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How I look now.

People ask me all the time “did it help?” For a long time I had no answer. I needed to wait until things had healed.

Was it a cure for the watering eye? No. But I now use eye drops at my ophthalmologist’s recommendation to stave off problems associated with dry eye. Aside from that, it is possible that maybe my eye waters less often, but it’s difficult to make a before/after comparison.

People also ask me “Are you happy with the results?” Though I am happy with the lower lid “lift,” knowing what I know now, I likely would not have done the procedure. It needed to have more than a cosmetic result to be helpful for me, and I’m still not completely satisfied that it has achieved a reduction in tearing. That being said, despite everything, I have no regrets. If this had worked as intended it might have been really helpful, and I couldn’t know if I hadn’t tried.

I own this decision- it was mine alone and I’d deemed it worth a try.

However, curiosity satisfied, it may be another 30 years before I allow another surgeon to touch my face again. Or like cotton candy, I may be over it once and for all.

 

 

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