Plastic surgeons honor 'Patients of Courage' overcoming difficult obstacles, inspiring others
Presentation at American Society of Plastic Surgeons annual scientific meeting
PHILADELPHIA – Each year, devastating illness or injury results in life-altering reconstructive plastic surgery for many. Despite the obstacles they face, some of these patients focus on the silver lining of their experience making positive changes in their lives and, in some cases, a profound impact on others. Five such reconstructive plastic surgery heroes are being honored at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) Plastic Surgery 2004 conference, during the Opening Ceremonies on Saturday, Oct. 9 at 4:30 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.
"It's extremely inspiring when ordinary people accomplish extraordinary things, particularly as they overcome physical and emotional trauma," said ASPS President Rod Rohrich, MD. "The Patients of Courage honorees have gone through great trials to sustain their lives and demonstrate the potential strength we all have within us."
This year, Patients of Courage: Triumph Over Adversity recognizes five remarkable individuals nominated by their plastic surgeons. The program is sponsored through a grant from Ethicon, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company.
The first honoree, Bonnie Northey of Lead, S.D., is passionate about swimming. When Northey was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 69, she was devastated to think she would not be able to wear a swimsuit and get back in the water. Her plastic surgeon, Robert Schutz, MD, advised her to have immediate breast reconstruction after her mastectomy. Northey was back to swimming soon after surgery. She has since won a gold medal in the Senior Olympics, speaks to numerous groups about breast reconstruction and counsels women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Dr. Schutz said, "Bonnie has an enduring spirit that reminds us all that reconstructive plastic surgery isn't just about healing someone physically but socially and psychologically as well."
At seven years old, Anné Chesson of Saraland, Ala., was struck and dragged by a school bus. She sustained life-threatening injuries, losing 45 percent of her skin from her chest to her knees. Trauma center physicians saved her life and performed skin grafting which left her with significant deformities. After enduring multiple reconstructive plastic surgeries, Chesson, now 16, is excelling academically and recently finished as First Runner-Up in the Teen Miss Alabama contest. "Through her endeavors, Anné has become an inspiration to her entire community and the country," said her reconstructive plastic surgeon, Michael Beckenstein, MD. "Her eternal optimism encourages other people with deformities."
Cliff Meidl of Hawthorne, Calif., was working construction when his jack hammer struck a buried power line that shocked him with 30,000 volts of electricity. The impact blew a hole in his skull, stopped his heart and nearly caused the amputation of both legs. Meidl underwent reconstructive plastic surgery to his knees, and, as a part of his rehabilitation, he started flat-water kayaking. He quickly excelled at the sport, qualifying for two Olympics, and was chosen to lead his U.S. Olympic teammates onto the field at the 2000 Sydney opening ceremonies. "Cliff deeply affected me as his plastic surgeon, reminding me that one should never discourage or give up on a patient," said Malcolm Lesavoy, MD. "The human spirit will always survive and conquer adversity."
When the five-month-old niece of a friend became extremely sick and needed liver tissue to survive, Tina Driskell of Vienna, Va., did not hesitate to donate part of her liver. Two years later, she developed an aggressive tumor on the scar from her surgery. Although surgeons were able to remove the tumor, Driskell had a severely deformed abdomen that required multiple reconstructive plastic surgeries. Despite a long battle with her insurance company, including several denials, Driskell was never bitter about her situation and persevered, eventually getting her insurance carrier's approval with the help of her plastic surgeon, Navin Singh, MD. "Tina is a kind soul who met this adversity with the same panache that she delivers in every aspect of her being," said Dr. Singh. "She is an inspiration to us all."
Candy Wood of Birmingham, Ala., was told by several doctors that she had an inoperable tumor in the base of her skull and only six months to live. Not willing to give up, Wood found reconstructive plastic surgeon Ian Jackson, MD. The life-saving operation in 1982, which required splitting her face in two and opening it to reach the tumor, was a success; however, the tumor came back several years later. This time, Wood developed an infection after the surgery and had to have the frontal bone in her face removed. Despite her facial deformity, Wood talks to groups all over the country and supports reconstructive plastic surgery patients through their personal ordeals. Dr. Jackson said, "Candy is a force to be reckoned with. The sheer wonder of her personality in the face of all she has gone through is almost magical."
Source: Eurekalert & othersLast reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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