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The Price of Beauty

Contemplating plastic surgery? You certainly aren’t alone. Despite the promises of instant results, recovery can be slow, and the procedures themselves are often complicated and dangerous. We asked five Dallas women to share their stories. Here’s the truth about their recoveries – and why they would do it again.


PATIENCE, PLEASE: It took three breast surgeries, but Joanna Behl says she’s pleased with her new shape.
Joanna is wearing Ella Moss dress ($160), Loot necklace ($600), and Kenneth Jay Lane white circle necklace ($175) available at Tootsies

Breast Implants:
Third Time’s a Charm

Joanna Behl was undressing for bed when she made a horrifying discovery: one of her D-cup breast implants had rotated to her back and was sliding around under her skin. Panicked, she called her plastic surgeon only to discover he was in the process of losing his house and practice to a lawsuit.

Behl’s mother-in-law suggested that she call Dallas surgeon Dr. Warren J. Katz. Behl made an appointment for the next day and was scheduled for reconstructive surgery by the end of the week.

Because this was her third breast surgery, Behl thought she knew what to expect. Her first procedure had taken her from an A-cup to a C-cup, and the saline implants were placed on top of her pectoral muscles. “The recovery is painful, and you feel off-balance,” she says. Her breasts looked pointy and felt hard. “I cried for two weeks because they looked like cones.”

A year later, Behl chose to upgrade her implants to a size D with her original doctor. “I knew right away that something was different,” she says. Her second recovery was more painful than the first, and her implants felt much harder. “My chest was so tight that I had cramps.” The pain eventually subsided, but her implants had hardened. “They looked really fake—like rocks,” she says. After the left one slipped out of its pocket in 2004, Behl had no choice but to undergo a third surgery.

Katz took the implants down a size and positioned them under Behl’s pectoral muscles. The two-week recovery from this final procedure was the most painful of the three, likely because it involved positioning the implants behind muscle and removing scar tissue.

“I couldn’t move,” Behl says. “It was like I had gotten run over.” She was patient with her recovery, and the new implants softened after a month. Today, they’re “as real as they’re going to be,” and she loves her new shape. “I was happily surprised,” she says. “I feel way more confident. After all I went through, I’d still do it again.”

NO PAIN, NO GAIN: Elise Daniel’s recovery from her tummy tuck was more painful than her C-section. But, she says, “It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Elise is wearing Laundry by Shelli Segal long-sleeve top with leather belt ($170) and Loot necklace ($600) available at Tootsies

Tummy Tuck:
Back To Flat

New mom Elise Daniel was feeling frumpy. Shortly after giving birth to twins in July 2001, she began having complications with her cesarean scar. Doctors determined that it wouldn’t heal without a second operation, so Daniel decided to consult a plastic surgeon. She hoped he could correct the incision and remove the saggy, stretched flap of skin that had replaced her once-taut stomach.

After meeting with two plastic surgeons, Daniel chose to have a full tummy tuck and some minor liposuction performed by Dr. Patrick Hodges. Hodges told her to expect some pain and at least a month of recovery. He also warned that the tummy tuck would cause numbness in her stomach, and if she planned on having more children, a future pregnancy could cause stretching and saggy skin.

On the day of her procedure, Hodges removed three to four pounds of skin and scar tissue from Daniel’s abdomen. He performed isolated liposuction around her hips, surgically created a new bellybutton, and then stitched her up—sewing together the muscles of her abdomen and instantly strengthening her core.

After waking up from the procedure, all Daniel remembers is intense pain. “It was really painful,” she says. “Worse than recovery from my C-section.” Daniel spent the night in the hospital, hooked up to a morphine drip. The next morning she went home to recover. “The hardest part for me was not being able to see my kids,” Daniel says. Her twins were spending a week with their grandparents, while her husband monitored her pain medications, prepared small meals when she was hungry, and helped her to the bathroom. Extending from underneath her incision were two drainage tubes with plastic bulbs on the ends, which she kept looped around her neck for the first two weeks, emptying them several times each day. She cleaned the drainage sites with antibiotic ointment and cleaned her tubes with alcohol two to three times a day. She was careful to take her recovery slowly.

Daniel’s pain started to subside on the fifth day, and she began to back off her pain pills. She was surprised at how strong she felt. “I stood up straighter, and I sat up straighter,” she says. “My core is stronger now than it was in my 20s.” After six weeks, Daniel felt completely back to normal. After abstaining from exercise for the first two weeks following her surgery, she had gradually worked back up to her normal routine of aerobics, weight lifting, and running, three to four times a week.

“Dr. Hodges’ advice was that abdominal surgery is only as good as you make it,” she says. Although her stomach was instantly flat, Daniel was still wearing the same size 10 clothing she was wearing before her procedure. Through a combination of healthy eating and exercise, she now wears a size 4, the same size she wore in college.

“I’m a 40 year-old working on a six-pack after having twins,” she says. “Every day I put on my low-rise jeans, I’m thankful that I had [the tummy tuck]. It is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

“When I left, I thought, “what in the world did I do?” My husband about had a heart attack.” —Jennie Lieber
Jennie is wearing Nest vintage mesh pendant necklace ($220/Elements)

Permanent Cosmetics:
A Smart Choice for a Busy Mom

Between five active kids and weekends filled with soccer games and outdoor sports, Jennie Lieber had trouble keeping her makeup in tact. Several of her friends had tried permanent makeup, so Lieber decided to talk to her plastic surgeon, Dr. Gregory Stagnone, about her options.

Lieber started with her eyes. She brought in her favorite brown eyeliner for her consultation, and the nurse matched the color as closely as possible. During the procedure, the nurse pulled Lieber’s eyelid away from the eye. Using a large, pen-like instrument, the nurse then moved a needle across Lieber’s lash line, injecting color into the dermal layer of the skin. “At the beginning, the vibration of the machine tickles the eye,” Lieber says. “Tell yourself to relax and it gets better.” The entire process—tattooing both upper and lower eyelids—took about an hour.

Although her lids felt a little tight, and a thin line of scabs appeared where the skin had been broken, Lieber was thrilled with the results—and the ease of her three-week recovery—and decided to do her lips. When she returned to Stagnone’s office for her consultation, she decided to have 100 percent red injected into her lips.

First, a numbing cream was rubbed onto Lieber’s lips, where it sat for 25 minutes. “It tingled at first and then got real numb,” she says. She had the option of taking a combination of Valium and Vicodin, or forgoing pain medication altogether. “I have had [permanent cosmetics applied] with Valium and Vicodin and without, and I would not do it without,” she says.

Not long into the procedure, Lieber’s lips began to bulge. “My lips swelled four times their natural size,” she says. Although she didn’t feel it at first, once the swelling set in, “it was a very raw, very chapped feeling. Like the worst sunburn on your lips.” The entire procedure lasted about two hours. The intense swelling lasted four days. “The pigment makes a crusty outside layer, and the color is magnified about 10 times,” she says. “When I left I thought, ‘what in the world did I do?’” Her lips were nearly purple, and Lieber wasn’t the only one who noticed. “My husband about had a heart attack.”

Over the next couple days, her severely chapped lips developed scabs. By day two her lips were leaking pus, possibly from an infection, and she was applying layers of Bacitracin and diaper rash cream to hurry along the healing process. “I had to drink through a straw because my lips were so big,” she says. “When I drank out of a glass they would stick, and the skin would peel off.” The color looked uneven because of the swelling, and she had trouble talking and eating. “It was painful to talk or laugh because my lips would crack,” she says. “Anything salty would burn my lips. Anything hot would sting.”

It was about three weeks before the chapped sensation faded completely. By that time the swelling had subsided, and Lieber was pleased with the results. “It looks like I have really pretty, rosy lips,” she says. And the trauma of her procedure didn’t fade Lieber’s love for her new look. She now has permanent eyeliner, lip liner, lip color, and eyebrow shading. In 2005, Lieber was certified in applying permanent cosmetics, and the stay-at-home mom now practices part-time out of her office in Dallas.

“It will probably be the most scared you’ll be in your entire life.”  —Elise Melton Pruett
Elise is wearing Kenneth Jay Lane necklace ($180) and Ted Rossi patent leather bangle ($75) available at Tootsies

Turn Back the Clock

Elise Melton Pruett, 55, has never had a wrinkle on her face. She doesn’t smoke, she doesn’t drink, and the outgoing fragrance representative has never spent a day in the sun. Yet after she turned 50, Pruett started to notice signs of aging in her face. She began to develop a “pooch,” a fat pocket under her chin, as well as saggy jowels. “That’s just not acceptable,” she says. “You know when it’s time [for cosmetic surgery].”

Pruett was referred to Dr. Rod Rohrich of the Dallas Plastic Surgery Institute and UT Southwestern Medical Center, and scheduled her procedure for two weeks after the initial consultation. “I didn’t want to be somebody else,” she says. “I still like me for me. I just wanted a younger version.”

The day of her procedure, Pruett checked in to the Dallas Day Surgery Center at the Baylor Tom Landry Center. She had opted for a lower facelift, using one of the newest technologies, a deeper layer lift. “It’s like peeling an onion,” Pruett says. “[The skin] goes up by layer, then they peel it down and tighten it layer by layer.” During the two-and-a-half-hour procedure, Rohrich performed liposuction under Pruett’s chin, made incisions behind her ears, tightened her skin, and sewed his work together at the hairline behind her neck.

“It will probably be the most scared you’ll be in your entire life,” she says. “You just don’t know how you’re going to look. It’s your face.”

She was taken from the recovery room to one of the center’s post-op suites. Her face was bandaged with gauze that looped around her head. “You’ll look like a giant Q-tip.” Drainage tubes protruded from the incision in the back of her neck and were pinned to the side of her head, “like little antennae.” She spent the night at the hospital and returned home the following day.

Pruett took three weeks off from work and spent the first two days in bed. Although she never experienced terrible pain, she experienced a lot of discomfort. “You just can’t get comfortable,” she says. “You can’t rest properly. It’s like an itch you can’t scratch. Your face feels numb, and there is a tightness around your neck and part of your ears.”

Pruett wore her bandages and drainage tubes for two days. On the third day, she returned to Rohrich’s office to have the bandages and some of the stitches removed. “My face just glowed,” she says. Two weeks later, after having the remainder of her stitches and staples removed, Pruett saw a longtime friend. “She said, ‘Elise, you look like you did when you were a little bitty girl.’”

When she returned to work, clients and co-workers couldn’t believe the change. “I get by for 35 all the time. I say, ‘I’m 55.’ [People] say, ‘I want to see your ID.’

“If you look in the mirror and you look old, you feel old,” she says. “I feel 35. [The facelift] gives you the best attitude. It’s like getting started again.”

GOOD JOB: About her nose job, Natalie Cottrell says, “Literally the day he took off the bandage, I saw exactly what I was hoping to see.” Natalie is wearing Laundry by Shelli Segal top ($130/tootsies) and A.V. Max chain link & Lucite necklace ($132/elements)

Nose Job:
For Health and Beauty

Natalie Cottrell always had a little hump on the top of her nose. She didn’t love it, but she wasn’t motivated to fix it until it started to shift in 2004. After noticing a change in her profile, she decided to consult an ear, nose, and throat surgeon.

Cottrell was diagnosed with a deviated septum. The cartilage had shifted from the center of her nose, which increased the intensity of sinus infections and caused her nose to feel constantly sore. It was a functional issue as well as an aesthetic problem, and Cottrell was having trouble finding a doctor who made her feel comfortable with both aspects. “First and foremost, I wanted to make sure that I was healthy,” she says. “I wanted my surgeon to address my cosmetic issues and not go crazy with the rest of my face.”

A recommendation led her to Dr. Benjamin Bassichis of Advanced Facial Plastic Surgery. After her initial consultation, she felt completely at ease and scheduled her surgery for the following month. During the hour that Cottrell was under anesthesia, Bassichis performed a septoplasty, a procedure where he realigned the septum. He then went in through the nostrils, shaved the bone, and removed the hump. No external cutting or sutures were necessary.

Cottrell awoke with a hard, cast-like bandage taped to the top of her nose. She stayed in the recovery room for about 20 minutes, before her mom drove her home and helped her to bed. “I expected it to be a bigger deal,” she says. “We put some gauze under my nose like a little hammock to catch the drainage.” Other than the gauze, which she changed when it got full, there was no nasal packing and little pain. Gel had been applied along with two silicon splints stitched inside each nostril to help retain the shape of her nose through healing.

Although the swelling made her feel like she had a head cold on days two and three, Cottrell rested with a bag of frozen peas on her eyes, which alleviated most of the discomfort. She also started using Ocean nasal spray to keep her nostrils moist and applied an antibiotic ointment to the inside of the nose to minimize blood and crusting. “I really took everyone’s advice and followed the instructions and took the opportunity to heal.”

On day six, she went back to the doctor to have her bandage and splints removed. “Literally the day he took off the bandage, I saw exactly what I was hoping to see,” Cottrell says. She experienced subtle yellowish bruising, which she easily concealed with makeup. “I expected to have a period where I kind of looked strange, but I didn’t have that at all. As the swelling went down, I kept feeling happier and happier.”


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