By Janet Kelly
YOU MAY—but probably not—recall that last January I was mulling over whether to have an eyelift by Dr. B., an oculoplastic surgeon, a cheek and neck lift by Dr. M., a plastic surgeon, or just leave well enough alone.
Despite my ambivalence, after an evaluation with Dr. B., I penciled myself in on April 22 for an upper blepharoplasty. That’s the technical term for an upper eye lift. I reasoned that I could always chicken out —the beginning of January seemed lightyears away. Except, I didn’t—cancel. A few reasons: I wanted to look more alive or at least awake—I noticed that I looked tired even when I slept nine hours the night before. Dr. B. confirmed that my eyelids were drooping and that I was in the habit of opening my eyes wider to see more. So, one big pro for the procedure was better vision. Moreover, because it was a functional blepharoplasty (to correct impaired vision, rather than just for cosmetic reasons), insurance would likely pay for it. Other pluses were that it was an outpatient procedure, would take less than an hour and was done under local anesthesia. Most important was the choice of a surgeon. I had heard from many different sources—friends who had the same surgery and looked good, another friend who’s an optometrist and said, “Dr. B’s the best,” and finally my own internist when he inquired who would be doing my eye surgery, said, “If you had told me you had chosen anyone else, I would have asked you why.”
Two weeks before my crossing this Rubicon, I had a punch list. One pre-op requirement was a limited physical (including an electrocardiogram). I had to stop taking things like aspirin and NSAIDS ( I didn’t take those anyway) and no Vitamin E or fish oil supplements permitted. Ginger and garlic were also no-nos—they’re all blood thinners. On the to-do list was to buy frozen peas to have on hand post-surgery. I divvied up large bags into sandwich-size ones I would need to apply to my eyes as soon as I got home from the hospital. More on that later.
Initially I was disappointed my procedure wouldn’t be in Dr. B.’s office. I shouldn’t have been. Although it was located about 40 minutes from my home, as opposed to his office, which is 10 minutes, the surgical center where I went was immaculate, the staff personal, my doctor a calming, reassuring presence. He explained right before my surgery what he told me in January —that he would remove 90 percent of excess skin, that incisions are made in the natural creases of the lids so they’re hard to detect. And, my eyes would look as if I were well rested afterwards. Note: If too much skin is removed from the upper eyelids, it may affect your ability to fully close your eyes. Ugh.
The most painful part of the operation was when the nurse inserted the anesthesia tube in my arm. I was in pre-op for a while, lying around waiting until my number came up. About the only things I can remember about what happened next was the operating room was blindingly white and that three big circles of lights that looked like shower-head sprinklers shone over my head.
I left the recovery room with a page or so of instructions, the gist of which was no exercise for about 10-14 days, especially no bending down for a long time. I had to sleep on my back, propped with three pillows under my head for the next couple of days—to reduce swelllng. Side sleeper that I am, this was probably the most difficult of the instructions to follow. I had to ice my eye area or apply at least four times a day for 20 minutes each time for the first three days –while awake! This is where those frozen peas come in. Each time I iced my eyes, the frozen pack of peas stuck to my face most uncomfortably—I thought I was getting freezer burn until a friend who asked how I was doing said to wrap the bags of peas in a linen cloth. I had to apply an eye ointment on the stitches three times a day. Day three and four, I could switch to cold compresses for the same 20-minute, four times a day drill. During this time I was black and blue all around my eyes and onto my cheek bones. What I think helped the bruising was homeopathic arnica, which I took three days before surgery and three days after.
On Day 10, I saw Dr. B., who removed the stitches that hadn’t dissolved and recommended that I stay with the compress routine—now it was 20 minutes of warm compresses four times a day. Did I mention that on Day 5 after surgery I went to my friend’s poetry reading? It was in the evening, but I wore sunglasses the entire time. Not a soul asked me why but I’m pretty sure my purplish bruises gave me away, despite the sunnies. By Day 14, I had some residual bruising on one cheek and still had some swelling, along with irritated, dry eyes. GenTeal eye drops and moist warm compresses helped that situation.
You’re advised to avoid sun exposure to lessen the risk of scar discoloration. Also no eye makeup allowed until healed completely. To the rescue: Lipstick and tinted moisturizer cover the bruises that remain.
Finally, a nod to Val Monroe. Wish I were less vain, but in any case, I don’t think I f*cked up my face.