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GRINGAS & GUACAMOLE
By Gail Nott
Three Faces of Me
After a frightening diagnosis from the dermatologist that I was sporting facial melanomas, I researched my options for removal. The plastic surgeon I consulted reassured me that a face-lift and peel would remove them and the ravages of too many summers in the Florida sun.
Not being the brightest crayon in the box, I began to fantasize about all the changes I could make to my face. Lips like Cindy Crawford! I must have a mole somewhere they could transplant. Doe eyes like Naomi Campbell minus the sweat sock pouches; remove the bloodhound jowls.
No reality check here. The surgeon agreed with my “want” list, smiling as her fingers moved quickly over her calculator. Mexico is renowned for its low cost plastic surgery and I have always been first in line for a K-Mart “Blue Light Special.” We set the date for the surgery and pre-op tests were scheduled.
The clinic was in Guadalajara and I had been told to pack for an overnight stay. Instead of asking for an explanation of the procedure and why it required such a lengthy post op recovery, Cindy, Naomi and I communed. When I woke up, after four hours of surgery, my head was wrapped like a cured ham. The surgeon informed me that I had very little facial fat and could experience a bit more post-op pain than most patients. What, she didn’t notice this before the surgery?
While it is always advisable to tell your physician there are particular sedatives or painkillers you prefer, my suggestion is simply state MORE! When my dentist says it’s going to be unpleasant, I beg for Percodan. I hoped for hourly shots of morphine. I received a negative shake of the surgeon’s head. With absolutely no compassion, I was told, “No one else complains.”
Through swollen lips that would have suctioned to a sliding glass door, I asked the nurse for a mirror. I had been warned that after a face peel I would resemble fresh ground round. Trying to focus eyes that were little more than slits, I saw the image of a Cabbage Patch doll; a swollen, discolored mass where a face used to be.
It had been 24 hours since I had a cigarette or cup of coffee; the surgeon’s life was on the line when she finally gave me post-op home care instructions. I was informed the surgery had gone well, the face-lift had been a success. “Houston, we have a problem.” My fantasy face had become a reality due to miscommunication in Spanish and English. There was “no going home again” on this one; I’d gotten what I wished for.
Once home, I hesitantly approached the bathroom mirror. I had tubes coming out of my head, a Sci-Fi Medusa. Around my neck hung a drain like a pedometer; it wasn’t measuring miles but the loss of precious bodily fluids. My brain must have drained into the container. How could I have done this to myself?
At the first aftercare appointment I yelled out and cried as the elastic bandage was removed. Grandma’s patchwork quilt couldn’t have had more stitches than my head.
Each minute stitch had to be removed; some had become buried in my scalp and ears during the healing process. I still carry a few today as reminders of my vanity.
I look in the mirror today and there are three faces reflecting back. The first is the one that aged like fine wine from years of life. The second is the illusion of who I thought I wanted to be. Most importantly, the third face is one that doesn’t show the miles but it contains much more wisdom.