New Jersey Monthly magazine featured a Glasgold Group’s patient who undergone facelift procedure. The article below answers many questions an individual thinks about prior to surgery. The patient described her feelings throughout the procedure and her reaction to the results of surgery. This article may provide some insight to other people considering this kind of surgery.
Another Pretty Face
On any weekend afternoon, you might find Anne Buckley* crawling on the roof of her suburban northern New Jersey home cleaning out the gutters. Or she might be snorkeling in the backyard pool with her daughter or swimming at a nearby lake. Usually outfitted in Reebok sneakers, shorts, and a polo shirt, Anne’s only concession to vanity is a couch of lipstick, eye liner, and mascara. Otherwise she describes herself as a Catholic wife and mom with better things to do than obsess about crow’s feet, cellulite, and the inevitable sagging that develops during midlife.
But last year at age 54, Anne started having second thoughts when she caught a glimpse of herself in a family Christmas picture. “When I first looked at it, I said, ‘Oh my god, who is that old person?'” She suddenly felt uncomfortable with her own face and body. It was the first time in her life that her physical appearance didn’t reflect how she felt inside. It was then that she began seriously to contemplate doing something about it.
One woman discovers that a face-lift changes more than her appearance
When I meet Anne Buckley in her plastic surgeon’s office late one summer after-noon, I am surprised. I had been expecting someone older looking, someone with a lined, tired face perhaps. Instead Anne’s olive skin looks supple and smoother than I had imagined. There are few wrinkles around her eyes and mouth, no worry lines in her forehead. She may not pass for 35 or 40, but clearly she is someone who looks younger than her 54 years.
And indeed, for most of her adult life, Anne has been teased by friends: When are you going to gain weight like the rest of us? Where are your wrinkles? Not until her mother died a couple of years ago and Anne gained twenty pounds did she finally have to give up the size eight clothing she’d worn all her life.
When I ask what she wants to change now, Anne’s fingers run over her lower cheek and chin area which are sagging slightly. “It’s just this part,” she says. “I feel like I’m getting jowls. Maybe it’s just because I got fatter.”
Anne worries that her answers to my questions about self-perception and her appearance will make her sound superficial. “I just don’t want to come off as vain,” she says. “I don’t go to the beauty parlor every week. I just find it an imposition because of time. And if anyone has to go to the doctor, I take them. But I never go.”
For a woman who doesn’t go CO the hair-dresser or have her nails done every week, the decision to have a face-lift would not seem the obvious solution to the aging problem. And for someone who has spent a lifetime caring for others – her husband, her children and her grandchildren – this self-indulgence seems unnatural.
But Anne wants to recapture her more youthful face, as do more than 40,000 men and women each year, according to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons (ASPRS). As the baby boomers age, facial plastic surgery is likely to become even more popular.
One of Anne’s best friends has had successful cosmetic surgery. “She had every-thing done and looks great,” says Anne. But that wasn’t the incentive for Anne’s decision. Nor was the fact, she says, that one of her children is a writer in Los Angeles where face-lifts are as routine as manicures and blonde highlights. And the decision wasn’t an attempt to add spark to her 36-year marriage: “My husband thinks I’m crazy to do this,” she laughs. “He’s comfortable with me the way I am.”
If anything motivated Anne to have a face-lift, it was the collective influence of Oprah, Phil, and Sally Jesse. It is on their shows that women discuss their face-lifts, tummy tucks, and liposuction: 87 percent of the cosmetic surgery is performed on women. Along with other purveyors of popular culture, these TV shows promote the unrealistic standards of beauty and youth that have made cosmetic surgery commonplace. Before she decided on a face-lift, Anne considered a procedure she’d seen on TV in which tiny lines are tattooed around a woman’s eyes to mimic eye liner. Then one afternoon Anne watched as a woman got an entire face-lift on Donahue
But while the media reinforces the allure and acceptability of plastic surgery, Anne insists that ultimately she’s doing this for herself. She’s the one who sees herself in the mirror every morning.
“I know that I’m not going to be 25 years old again,” she says. “I’m not trying to regain my youth. I feel young, why not look young if it can be done?”
Although there are no recent comparative statistics, medical professionals say that face-lifts and other types of cosmetic surgery are on the upswing. The most common operations are eyelid surgery, face-lifts, collagen injections, and nose jobs, according to the ASPRS. The majority of these procedures are performed on women between the ages of 35 and 50.
“More and more people are taking pride in their appearance and getting face-lifts,” says Dr. Gregory Borah, professor-in-chief of plastic surgery at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick. “The stigma is dying out, and the face-lift for just the very wealthy is a thing of the past.”
Last spring, Anne took the first step in joining this trend by calling the ASPRS (800-635-0635). The referral service offers callers a free list of five randomly chosen surgeons in their area. All the surgeons are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
The first surgeon on Anne’s list told her he did face-lifts in his office, an idea that she found unsettling. Anne liked the second doctor she visited who reassured her that he only did operations in a hospital, but she wanted to talk to one more doctor.
When Anne first walked into Dr. Alvin Glasgold’s Highland Park office, she encountered a girl in the waiting room who had just had nasal surgery. “I don’t think [the surgery] was two weeks old and she looked great,” Anne says.
“That made me feel good about Dr. Glasgold, because some people look so battered and bruised.”
In fact, everyone responds differently to cosmetic surgery. One person may bruise more easily than another, and it may not be a reflection on the surgeon. “Some people look great the next day;” says Glasgold. “Some swell quite a lot. It’s just unpredictable.”
But Anne was also taken with Glasgold’s personality. “I liked his manner, the way he looks at you and speaks to you. I just felt so confident with him.”
Glasgold assured Anne that he could fix her jowls. He also mentioned a forehead or brow lift but noted that it would alter her appearance more noticeably. She immediately said no: “I didn’t really want to look different,” she says. So Dr. Glasgold suggested an eyelid lift to remove fat deposits that were making her lids sag slightly, and Anne agreed.
Before the end of the consultation, Glasgold quoted Anne the cost for the two procedures: $5,000 for the face-lift and $2,000 for the eye surgery, which is about average for doctors in the New Jersey – New York – Pennsylvania region, according to the ASPRS. The ambulatory unit fees run between $2,000 and $3,000 for the procedures, and the charge for anesthesia ranges from $700 to $1,400.
A week before the surgery, Anne goes to the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where the surgery will be performed, for an electrocardiogram, a chest X ray, and blood work. Later that afternoon, she has a facial in
Glasgold’s office. Although not all plastic surgeons offer pre- and post-operative facials, aesthetician Mari Krum says that clean, well-hydrated skin heals better. Krum tells Anne to take plenty of vitamin C and fluids in the days prior to the surgery and wishes her good luck.
Half an hour later, Anne meets with Dr. Glasgold for the final pre-surgery consultation. Bespectacled, with a gray beard and mustache, Glasgold does have a friendly, confident manner. He hands Anne a mirror and explains the procedure.
During the surgery, he says, he’ll make an incision behind her ears back into the hairline. He’ll tighten the muscle bands around her chin, remove fat deposits with liposuction and re-drape the muscle and skin to eliminate the jowls. As he talks, he pulls Anne’s skin up along her chin line to give her an idea of the look.
During the eye surgery, Glasgold will remove excess fat tissue and skin from the lid. “We want you to look nice, normal and rested,” he says. “You’ll look so good there’ll be no clue you had anything done.
“What’s nice about working with you,” he says as the appointment ends, “is that you are very pretty. Some people have a lot of wrinkles. You have great features. All we’re doing is rejuvenation: We’re rejuvenating what’s there.”
Before she leaves, Anne tells Glasgold she feels confident with him, but a few days before her surgery she becomes a bit apprehensive. “I have a very busy schedule, and I’m afraid that I’m going to be swollen or black-and-blue,” she says. “I’m not going home until I’m presentable.”
The day before the surgery, Anne’s apprehension escalates to pure fear. “I’ve never had any surgery,” she says. “I think I may have had one X ray in my whole life, and the only blood work I ever had was [when I had] my babies. I’ve never even had a cholesterol test.”
Patients usually are and should be some-what anxious before the procedures, says Dr. Borah. “It takes a certain amount of bravery to do this,” he says. “As I tell my patients: This is not a haircut, it’s a real operation.”
The thing Anne fears most is that the change will be too drastic. “I don’t want someone to look at me and not know who I am. I’m afraid of that happening. I just want to be the best I can be. I look at Joan Rivers and she looks totally different (than she used to].”
The evening before she goes to the hospital, she tells me over the phone, “This is the biggest thing I’ve done in my whole life.”
Shortly after Anne enters the operating room around 8 AM, one of the nurses comes over to her and says: “I don’t know if it makes you feel better, but everyone in this room has had work done by Dr. Glasgold, including me.” This news, in fact, is extremely comforting to Anne. Although many patients have local sedation for these procedures, Anne had opted for general anesthesia. An IV is administered and soon Anne is asleep. The face-lift takes two hours and the eye surgery about 40 minutes. According to plan, she’ll be in recovery for about three hours before going home around 2 PM. But in the afternoon Anne is having a hard time waking up. When her husband arrives, Glasgold suggests that Anne stay the night if she’ll feel more comfortable.
Later in her hospital room, Anne gets up, still slightly dizzy. Her face feels tight, and her right eye is black-and-blue, but surprisingly she has almost no pain. A large bandage is wrapped around her head, and a plastic tube behind one ear siphons off the blood from the surgery. She puts ice on her eyes and takes two Tylenol before dozing off for the night.
When she goes to Glasgold’s office the next day, the nurses tell her she looks wonderful. “What are you drunk? Are you kid-ding?” Anne laughs. “I look like I got hit in the face with a shovel. My neck is bruised, my neck and mouth are stiff, and my face is swollen.” Glasgold assures her that everything is fine and re-moves her bandages.
She and her husband stay in a nearby hotel that night. One eye looks less bruised, the other more so. Her face is still swollen and taut: “I look like I have mumps.” By the next day, when the first set of stitches comes out, Anne is able to shower and wash her hair.
In order to avoid telling anyone but her daughter about the surgery, Anne and her husband take several days off to visit the Amish country and the Jersey Shore. “It’s nobody’s business,” Anne says. “And my sons would tease me.” For the first few days she covers her head and neck with a scarf, and wears dark sunglasses like a reclusive actress.
“I feel so self-conscious,” she says. “I’m still hiding. My husband says I look like the bride of Frankenstein. He does most of the public stuff, and I go through the back way as much as possible.”
Inside one store that weekend, a woman remarks: “Did you have a car accident?” “Oh, yes,” Anne says, “it was terrible.” Although there was almost no pain following the surgery, two staples behind her ears itch at night and pull on her skin. When she goes to Glasgold to have the second set of stitches taken out, he agrees to remove the staples in a couple of days. A nurse gives her makeup to help cover the remaining black-and-blue marks around her eyes.
“I’m not ecstatic,” she tells me ten days after the surgery, “but I’m hoping to be next week. It just seems like a long time, and I’m impatient.”
Doctors agree that reaction to cosmetic surgery depends on the individual and on the procedure. Most people are immediately pleased with their nose jobs, for instance, but the visible results of an eyelid procedure can take a week. The benefit of a face-lift may not be apparent for two to three weeks, says Glasgold: “That’s when the high comes.”
Indeed, by the time Anne is back home two weeks after the surgery, she is feeling better. The swelling and bruises are almost completely gone, but she is still reluctant to test people’s reactions. The day she returns home, Anne deliberately avoids one of her best friends. “I wasn’t ready; my face was still swollen on the bottom,” she says.
At a family gathering later that week, a few people comment that she looks great. No one seems to notice it is her face that has changed. “People keep saying they like my hair this way,” she laughs, “that it makes me look younger. People say you look so good and inside you’re laughing. It’s like a trick that only my husband and daughter are in on.”
When I visit Anne almost three weeks after the surgery, she leads me downstairs, out of earshot of her son who still doesn’t know about her surgery. Although she’s wearing her usual outfit of shorts and a T-shirt, Anne does look different as she sits across from me in a chair. In part, it’s because she has on more make-up than I’ve seen her wear, and I could swear her hair style is new. But I also notice that her skin seems pulled a little tight. Does she look younger? It’s hard for me to say. Like other people who have had recent eyelid surgery, she has a slight unnaturally alert appearance. It’s a look, I imagine, that can be identified by other women who have had plastic surgery. According to doctors, the look will fade within weeks; unfortunately, the positive results of the face-lift will fade, too, usually in five to ten years.
For now Anne is obviously happy with the results. “When I look in the mirror I don’t think in terms of years. I just look better,” she says.
When I ask her if this is just the beginning of a series of tummy tucks, face-lifts and other alterations, she says no.
“I don’t think that in ten years I’ll want another face-lift. By that time, if it goes the way it should, I’ll be 65 and look 55. It won’t matter so much then. I can’t be 35, 45, 50 forever. I think I’ve done enough.”
Face-lift or not, Anne is still the same suburban mom, wife, and grandmother who wears sneakers to climb on the roof, and she clearly senses the limits of cosmetic alterations.
“Your life won’t change,” she says. “I wouldn’t do it for romance or anything. I just did it for me.”