The Plastic Surgeon
and the Patient
A Slow Dance
The surgery lasted seven hours. The patient was a woman in her midfifties—in for a face-lift along with an endoscopic brow-lift, upper and lower blepharoplasty, and fat injections to her lips. She complained that her eyes seemed increasingly deep-set, and she disliked her forehead creases. She told her surgeon that she wanted to “soften her look. ” I entered the room just as the patient was going under. It's easier that way. Linking the surgical process to someone I've met makes it impossible for me to achieve an emotionally neutral, aestheticized distance during the operation.
Each time, I anxiously watch the monitor, scanning heart rate and blood pressure. I shudder when they are wrenched from their anesthetic sleep, the whole body heaving up and arching when the ventilator is pulled from the mouth. I worry that they won't be able to reconnect consciousness to their surgical bodies, that they will die. And then after, in recovery, left alone with the patient and family, I feel responsible, telling them the surgery went well—as though I have any idea, really. I