WOW! What to say?   If you ever think of a face lift, give it some serious thought.  What I thought was a simple, easy operation turned into something else.   ( This sentence is being said on Friday, I had the operation on Monday.  So if you want, you can call this day 4 or day 5 )

Little did I know what was a casual remark at last year's Bandster bash would turn into.  There I was at the party, being introduced to Doctor Pena.  So, I just casually indicated that I didn't need any plastic surgery.  All that I wanted was a simple cut and tuck, to get rid of some saggy skin in the area of my chin.  Her reply was: "Oh, What you need is a face lift".

So the idea festered, and festered.  I had originally scheduled the operation for Dec 21, 2001.  My thinking was that a simple face lift would heal nicely in 2 weeks and I could be back driving a bus after Christmas vacation.   Well, I did not have blood counts to satisfy the Mexican Doctors, so no go.     

I went to the internet, tried to get all the information about the particular condition, and self cure of massive amounts of multi-vitamins, B-Complex and Iron.  Finally, I was approved for surgery 21 January.  So January 21, I showed up to the Millennium Hospital in Tijuana for the surgery.   My notes ( recollections ) follows:

Before, I made arrangements for the operation in Tijuana, I had done a bit of homework in San Diego.  I found out that face lift was generally broken into the lower face, the eyes, and the forehead.  Prices varied, from $12,000 to $16,000.  I was quite surprised, and unequipped to defend the price of Dr. Pena.  Expecting, as I was, for a price just for my lower face, I was given a price for the whole face at a cost less that what I was expecting to pay for just the lower face.  So, I was scheduled for a full face lift.  Not, just the simple cut and paste lower face operation that I thought that I wanted but the full blown face lift.

Day 1: Monday - Checked into the Hospital at 10 am.  Almost immediately was gowned, Slippered, and after review of all the blood work, EKG, and tests by the Doctors, all the before photos were taken.  I was laid on the operation table.   The nurse took more attempts to seat the IV than I could stand, and I indicated that to the good Doctor Pena, she stabbed me the first time and I was out within a millisecond. ( My operation was scheduled for noon Monday )

Sometime later, I awoke.  What a time of it.  Someone was there with me, because every time I raised my hands to touch my face, I was told "No, No, No" in a very gentle voice.  And my hands were removed from my face.  I was able to ascertain that my head was fully covered with bandages.  Every once in a while, a section covering my eyes were removed, some eye drops (water?) was dropped in, and the eye area was covered.  I fought claustrophobia all that night.  I was in and out of consciousness all through the night.  I absolutely lost all track of time.  I drink a bit of apple juice.

Day 2 - Tuesday - Took off the bandages, the first time.  What an ugly mess awaited me.  My eyes were barely able to open, the whole of my face was an ugly bruised and swollen mess.  Not anything that I wanted to share with anyone.  The nurse re-bandaged me and I was told by the good Doctor that my job was to relax and hold ice packs to my face.  So, that was what I did.  Falling into and out of consciousness all during that day and night.  Dr Pena had given me pre-operation instructions, not to move the head relative to the thorax very far.  Not forward, back, left, nor right.  It was difficult to find a position that held to that admiration, and could hold ice packs, and could relax.  She still wanted me to be bed ridden, as the seating chair was very uncomfortable for the given situation.  The nursing staff was concerned with my eating.   Meals would be good Bandster food.  Tea, soup, Jell-O, liquid yogurt,  Hot chocolate.  Something in the operation made it difficult to chew.  Even Jell-O was out of the question.  So such things as soft noodles, or vegetables, were clearly out of the question.

Day 3 - Wednesday - Took off the bandages, the second time.  The nurse pulled the catheter, and I got my first shower.   Same thing as day two.  Ice packs to face, relax and in and out of consciousness all during that day and night.  Once again, It was difficult to find a position that could be relaxing, iced and comfortable.   One of the side problems.  I developed massive headaches in the hospital.  My theory is:  You know when you are sipping one of those frozen slurpees and the ice somehow or the other, causes the blood in the top of the mouth to get cold, and that causes headaches.  That kind of head ache for the first 3 days  of ice application.  Not comfortable.  Furthermore, there was a stitch across the throat, that is exactly at the same level as the adam's apple.  Every time I swallow, This stitch rubs across the adam's apple.  Given this kind of 'garrote' stitch.  It really makes you reconsider eating.

Day 4 - Thursday - Day to leave the hospital.  I was not in shape to drive, nor for that matter, to handle taxis.  Dr Kuri volunteered to take me all the way to my home.  God bless that man.  When we got to my house, he gave me a box of pain meds and said "Man, this is not a time for you to be macho.  Take the pain medicine.  I want you too use it all before 5 days".  Finally on home turf, I was able, with my trusty recliner chair, to find a position that was comfortable, etc///

Day 5 - Friday - When the dog awoke me at my usual time of 04:30 am, I was not to happy, but realized that taking the dog for a walk in the COLD pre-dawn air, was a great way to get some 'cold in the face' time.  Later, went with a neighbor and retrieved my car from the Tijuana parking lot.   If I had known back at day one, what I know now, I would have not even attempted to drive after such an operation.  Also, going alone was not a good idea.  There were times that I wanted to communicate with the day nurse, but had to wait for her to wander by the bed room.  Some one has indicated that day five is the worst day in recovery.  That it takes about five days for all the anesthesia to wear off.  Well folks, it is now 23:30 pm and I am wide awake.  Not even a glimmer of falling asleep.  Tempted to put the dog out so as not to be awaked by her tomorrow.

So where am I at this time:  The bandages cover all the face and head except for the eyes, nose and mouth.  Under the bandages, I can feel, and locate all the stitches. Basically, the whole rim of the face was cut and pulled and stitched.  The eyes are a bit of art.  I have always had drooping eyes and I requested if it was possible, I would like to have the excess skin removed from above the eyes.  She did a remarkable job.  Even with the stitches in place, My eyes look 100% better than they were prior to the operation.  I still have that  [ GD ] stitch across the throat.  The swelling has gone down a bit.  The skin in the face is quite a bit yellow.  Bruises everywhere, that I can see.   The stitches are starting to itch.  A bit of a problem arose this afternoon.  The outside temperature was in the 80's.  Shirt sleeve weather.  So I go to walk the dog this afternoon.  But the bandages cover almost all the head and is quite hot.  So, I found that I was doing a bit of a juggling act trying to figure out what combination of outfits to handle the warm weather.

Day 6 - Saturday - Took the dog out for a walk at about 4 am.  Finally got to sleep at about 6 am and was promptly awoken by my mom asking if I wanted to go north to visit my brother and his wife.  Boring...  It is night now.  There is no apparent pain, the swelling has gone down a bit more.  The stitches are starting to itch.  Looking forward to getting the stitches out.

Day 7 - Sunday -  God, what do I have to do to get some sleep?  Tried all kinds of ways to get to sleep.  Took twice the recommended dosage of Sominex (sleep pills) last night.  They did not work.  Strange situation.  Was very drowsy all night, but not enough to get to sleep.  Finally said to hell with it and took the dog out for a walk at about 5 am.  Today, the damn bandages finally came completely undone.  In desperation, I took them off.  Wow! Things are better.  The throat pain disappeared immediately.  Apparently, the pain was not caused by a stitch line, but by the bandages.  Hurray...  I am now able to separate the sensation caused by the bandages and the sensation caused by the stitches and the new face.

I thought about it a bit and came to the conclusion that around the house, it would be better to leave the bandages off, and let the air come in contact with the stitches.  Also, the head was much cooler.  Another thing was the limited range of motion.  I have had a neck brace from days gone past.  I thought that using the neck brace would be a (not so) gentle reminder to not move the head.  Great idea!  Worked well.  I am able to sleep in the neck brace, and not worry that I will whip the neck around in my sleep.   

I also found that if I use a Watchman's cap, and the neck brace, that the stitches were not apparent to the casual observer.   So, I placed the Stocking cap, neck brace and went grocery shopping.  The general reaction was nowhere as strong as with the bandages alone.  So, I will wear the brace at night, the watchman's cap and brace if I go out.  

On another note:  Today I saw my whole (new) face.  Not too bad.  Don't look like me at all.  Many different shades of every color of the rainbow.  The skin is tight.  There are some strange bumps in places that I don't remember having bumps.  I read a bit more about the operation.  It could be that I had some muscles in my face rearranged.  Could explain the pain while trying to chew.   Not a problem.  Back to liquids for a while.  The chewing pain is lessening every day.

So what I learned today.  Turn off the phone if there is any chance that you will fall asleep.   Tell your friends and family about turning off the phone.  They have been very supportive.  Wear a neck brace if there is any chance that you will fall asleep.  Wear a watchman's cap and brace in public.  I can drive with the brace, but I am very cautious.  

Day 8 - Monday -  Went to the movies.  With the neck brace and a watchman's cap, nobody seemed to notice.  

Day 9 - Tuesday -  Think that I will stop the day to day Journal.  Seems like things will get a bit better every day.  So I will make entries at major points from here on.

Day 11 - Thursday - Not really much to tell. The stitches were pulled. I am now awaiting for the bruising to go away and the skin to get a bit of mobility. Next appointment is next Thursday ( Day 18 )


Day 11 - Thursday - Not really much to tell. The stitches were pulled. I am now awaiting for the bruising to go away and the skin to get a bit of mobility. Next appointment is next Thursday ( Day 18 )

Day 18 - Thursday - More waiting for the bruising to go away and the skin to get a bit of mobility. Dr Pena has extended my out of work status for another week.  That will mean that I will have been out of work for four weeks.  Most face lift patients can go to work with two weeks of time off, but I drive a school bus and need a very mobile neck.  She thought that the skin was too tight to permit such movements.  Another big bummer is that I cannot kayak with this neck.  Next appointment is next Wednesday ( Day 24 )

Day 21 - Sunday - Nothing much is happening.  The face is getting looser and I am able to move it a bit more.  Noticed that I might have enough mobility in the skin of the neck to go back to work.  For the first time since the operation, I slept in a bed and not in a recliner on my back.  It was nice to sleep in a position other than on my back.  I noticed that the pillowed ear could not feel the pillow.  It is still quite numb on both sides of the face.  More on Wednesday ( Day 24).


< To be updated periodically - Last up date -  May 07, 2008 06:45 AM >

I suppose that one of the last things that I will add is the before and after face shots.

MY CONCLUSIONS TO DATE:  Don't take a face lift to be a minor operation.  Take somebody with you.  Assume that you will look like shit immediately after the operation.


NOTICE:  All opinions expressed herein are the author's own.  None of this is to be construed as to being medical advice.

Copyright 2000 Wayne Smith. All rights reserved.  Revised: May 07, 2008 06:45 AM .  Vanity Counter: Hit Counter