What Price Satisfaction?

“Insane,” she said, her blue eyes reddened with tears, “I can’t believe what I did.”

She’s a trim, blonde 54-year old woman with three children and a heavy burden of dissatisfaction with her looks.  I told her I think she looks a lot like Meg Ryan, with her bangs and pigtail bobbing.  She would, except for the gnarled, puffed and reddened lips and a bright scar across her left cheek.  She had mutilated herself in an attempt at inexpensive beauty.

We agree to call her Mary.  She makes a living in public and wants anonymity.  She confessed she’s always had “issues with self-image” and that’s what drove her to a plastic surgeon a few months ago.  That turned out well, she said, but “It cost over a thousand dollars, and I couldn’t justify the expense of more injections of silicone.  So I went to the internet and bought a bottle of silicone for ten dollars and injected it into myself.”  It was contaminated.

It is difficult to look at the picture of her face taken four days later.  “People thought I was the victim of domestic violence,” she said, adding “I assured them I was not, but it’s embarrassing to talk about.  It’s my worst nightmare.”

She is in the comfortable office of TriValley Plastic Surgery in Dublin, California.  Dr. Steven Williams, an athletic-looking Yale Medical School graduate and new father of a baby boy, gently probed his gloved index finger around Mary’s inflamed face.  “You may need several corrective surgeries, we’ll do the best we can.”   His voice seemed to reassure a very nervous patient.  “Will this scar?” she asked pointing to her gashed cheek.  “We can make the scar very small but you might notice some scarring.”  She attempted a smile.

“We have a practice that’s becoming known for repairing such problems.  We’ve noticed an uptick in people trying to do things like this at home and having problems and having to come in and see us,” says Williams.  He says he thinks it may be the economy and the notion, encouraged by advertising, that plastic surgery is somehow “foolproof.”

In the operating room in his office suite, a monitor beeped tracking Mary’s heart rate as it hovered around 90.  She’s awake with local anesthetic as Dr. Williams moves quickly around her head and neck with blue cloth drapes.  “We don’t know exactly what this material is, but it is actively causing serious problems for her,” Williams selects a small scalpel.  “It’s not something you can just draw out,” he explains, “You actually have to go in surgically and cut it out.”  He repeatedly asks Mary if she feels any pain, she answers no, but under the surgical drapes her feet wag in some discomfort.

“She’ll have some residual scarring, we simply can’t avoid that,” says Williams.  Mary may have more profound scars that will not be visible.  “It’s taken this to realize I should have been satisfied with what I had,” she says and takes a deep breath.

An hour and a half later, Mary left the office and headed home.  She looked at me, seemingly pleading for understanding, “I hope speaking out might help someone avoid doing what I have done.”

Follow me on Twitter at JohnFowlerTV

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