Plastic surgery patients honored for courage, altruism

Awards presented during ASPS Annual Scientific Meeting

SAN FRANCISCO -- Anyone can find themselves in a life-threatening situation – a nurse, a Marine, a student – but who has the strength to survive let alone the energy to think about others? Devastating illness, injury, or deformity results in life-altering reconstructive plastic surgery for hundreds of thousands of people, yet only a few have the determination to get beyond their own dilemma and step up to help others. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) will present the Patients of Courage: Triumph Over Adversity awards to four inspirational patients - whose lives were restored through reconstructive plastic surgery, and whose charitable actions influence the lives around them - during Plastic Surgery 2006 on Saturday, Oct. 7, at 4:30 p.m. at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco.

Plastic surgeons restore lives by performing reconstructive surgery on patients suffering from illness, injury or disease that range in scope from "routine" to potentially fatal. ASPS Member Surgeons treat patients of courage every day, each with a unique and remarkable tale of overcoming adversity.

"The courage and determination these patients demonstrate is awe-inspiring. Rather than looking at the challenges they face as an obstacle, they transform these challenges into a catalyst to educate and assist others," said ASPS President Bruce Cunningham, MD. "Their stories reveal the amazing accomplishments made possible by the special bond between patients and plastic surgeons."

Lillie Shockney, 52, of Baltimore, was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent mastectomy in both breasts. Lillie initially postponed reconstruction; however, with the introduction of the DIEP flap reconstruction, Lillie realized the benefits it could bring her and multitudes of women. Whether she is writing books, testifying to Congress, founding the organization Mothers Supporting Daughters with Breast Cancer, Lillie is an outspoken advocate and educator for breast cancer patients. Originally a nurse in the neurosciences department, she is currently the administrative director at the Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center, and will soon be the first non-physician to be named president of the National Consortium of Breast Centers.

Ashley McGrath, 20, of Palm Bay, Fla., was born with a combination of congenital deformities that often lead to death in infancy or extremely low IQ for those who survive into their teens. Ashley surprised her family and doctors by learning to communicate through sign language by age four but was unable to speak due to a severe cleft palate. Despite doctors' concerns, Ashley's family was adamant about correcting the physical deformity, so Ashley's plastic surgeon decided to correct her palate. By second grade, Ashley began entering speech competitions and winning, securing the state speech competition with the Future Business Leaders of America while in high school. Ashley works with the "English as a Second Language" program, volunteers at church, raises money for charity, and recently received several college scholarships for her grades and public service.

Susan Carlisle, 36, of Mount Airy, N.C., has been severely obese most of her life. Weighing 300 pounds by the time she was 11 years old, Susan attempted to control her weight as an adult through gastric bypass surgery, but complications arose which led to the reversal of the bypass and additional weight. Through diet and determination she then lost over 300 pounds; however, the damage to her body caused numerous medical problems including a life-threatening infection on her leg. Susan's plastic surgery saved her leg and her life. After a lengthy recovery, she returned to college to become an advocate for people with disabilities. Quickly beginning her mission, she is working to change the culture at her school which denies equal rights to students with disabilities.

Marine Sergeant Oscar Canon, 27, of San Diego, was on a protection detail assignment when insurgents attacked his convoy. While providing protective fire in front of the convoy, Oscar was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade and suffered life-threatening injuries to his leg and hip, but he still managed to safely evacuate all those he was protecting. Oscar was told he may never walk again let alone return to duty; however, multiple reconstructive surgeries to save his leg and retain function enabled him to beat the odds. Today, Oscar is running and training for the Marine Corps physical readiness test to remain on active duty. He is a spokesperson for injured Marines, where he talks to veterans' groups, political organizations, and the public to increase awareness and funding for medical and social support.

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The Patients of Courage: Triumph Over Adversity program is supported by Ethicon Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company.

For referrals to ASPS Member Surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, call 888-4-PLASTIC (475-2784) or visit www.plasticsurgery.org where you can also learn more about cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. With more than 6,000 members, the society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 90 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in l93l, the society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

Note: Reporters can register to attend Plastic Surgery 2006 and arrange interviews by logging on to www.plasticsurgery.org/news_room/Registration.cfm or by contacting ASPS Public Relations at (847) 228-9900 or in San Francisco, Oct. 7-11 at (415) 905-1730.


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