It’s a Barbie world….life in plastic is fantastic!
It is a common misunderstanding that the word “plastic” in plastic surgery means fake, artificial or references the implants used eg. “plastic boobs” (FYI no implants contain plastic). But in this context, the word originated from the Greek word plastikos, which means to mould or give form. In the profession: “Plastic and reconstructive surgeon” – the word plastic is used to describe the process used by medical specialists who mould and reshape body tissues.
There can be many reasons why body tissues need to be moulded and reshaped. The popularity of cosmetic surgery content on social media and television has created the belief that most of a plastic and reconstructive surgeons work is cosmetic in nature. There is little reference to the reconstructive part of what my colleagues and I are able to do.
Here is a brief list of life changing surgery we do that is reconstructive in nature:
Reconstruction of noses, ears, eyelids or lips that have been damaged due to skin cancer, trauma or burns.
Reconstruction of breasts due to cancer
Cleft lip and palate surgery for functional and aesthetic improvement of mouths and noses
Reconstruction via the use of skin grafts or tissue flaps of injuries to limbs caused by motor accidents, serious falls or animal attack. Exposed bone, cartilage or tendons will never heal or even survive if not covered by soft tissue and skin. Plastic surgeons recruit tissue and skin from other areas of the body to close areas that have become exposed due to trauma or disease.
Obviously, these kinds of surgeries are lifesaving and life changing and are a source of great satisfaction to the surgeon who has performed them. Especially when the patient’s life has been lengthened and improved.
The moulding and reshaping of tissues for cosmetic improvement can be equally satisfying for the surgeon and life changing for the patient as the wonderful feedback I recently received from a patient shows.*
Dear Doctor, realised I’m at the two-week mark today and I just wanted to say thank you. The past two weeks have truly been much easier than I thought it would be. I am just absolutely in love with what you’ve created – I knew beforehand that I was in great hands but you still completely exceeded all I could hope and wish. Can’t say thank you enough. I can absolutely vouch for your perfectionism and talent – I still remember how, before I came to you, a friend of mine was raving about what a perfectionist you are and how dedicated you are to your patients and the quality of your work. Since the start of my journey with you, I felt so calm, at ease and safe. You had such a warmth and an energy that radiated confidence, competence and genuine care. Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart – since I can remember as a girl of about 4, I couldn’t wait to grow up and look like a “woman”. I have a photo of when I was around about that age. An aunt had given me my very first “baby bra” and panty set. I felt so proud and grown-up in it. It’s as if I always identified as a girl who would one day have curves. Obviously I was a bit disappointed when I got to 18/19 years and realised that it’s not going to happen. It may sound a bit shallow or simple to some, and I know it probably doesn’t compare to the cancer patients that you work with but I can truly say that it’s a dream I’ve always had and you absolutely read my mind and saw the exact picture that I’ve been dreaming about since then. Thank you
My reply to this grateful patient:
Wholeness and body harmony is a concept – irrespective of whether it is reached by achieving a proportion which is right for you or being “rebuilt” following the ravages of cancer. It is not shallow at all – it’s about feeling you belong – completely and thoroughly in your skin. And achieving harmony between your “inside” and your “outside” – what you feel and what you project. And it is a privilege and a pleasure to have discerning people like you place your trust, your aspirations, and your goals in my hands and care.
Life as a Plastic surgeon is “fantastic” because bringing patients visions into reality is literally helping peoples dreams come true.
*Permission was obtained and granted by the patient to share her letter