The Camera Doesn’t Lie…

January 28, 2009 at 11:42 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Okay, no more excuses. I’ve finally attempted to transfer picture from phone to computer, and it actually worked… my technically incompetent brain cannot accept that truth. But here they are, some pictures of how the scaling down of my face has been going over the course of the first three weeks following my orthognathic op. Be nice, now! Your time will come too…

Me posing with a hat, only days away from my surgery.
Just call me Godfather… only days away from having my surgery.

Okay, so it didn’t occur to me until 10 days after my surgery that I should be taking photos… I swear, it didn’t! Well, so I took just the one to commemorate my worst week. I wasn’t exactly feeling what you would call camera-friendly at the time, but I wish I took more now. Seriously, get clickin’, peeps… you’ll never look like this again!

10 days post-op... not looking very happy. I'd smile if I could!

10 days post-op... and not looking very happy. I'd smile if I could!

 I take photos again roughly a week later and am suprised by the change in my appearance. Weeks 2-3 are when you should see the swelling going down quite rapidly with some of the old features returning… it’s slightly more pain-staking after that. I for one can’t wait at this point for my petite schnozz to come back… having tubes stuck up it makes it look all angry and flared.

19 days post-op... ah, that's better! Yay, for facial mobility.

19 days post-op... ah, that's better! Yay, for facial mobility.

The dreaded side view... what's this? Perfect at last!

The dreaded side view... what's this? Perfect alignment at last!

 I’m starting to get over the camera-phobia now… you’ll see a couple of teasing smiles stealing in. This is my new face showing off a bit after all its been put through.
Squinty-eye... this is just how I smile, not a side effect!

Squinty-eye at 20 days post-op... this is just how I smile, not a side effect!

Hmm, would like some cheekbones appearing soon, please...

Hmm, would quite like some cheekbones appearing soon, please... and what's happening with my chin?

 The most recent pictures definitely see me feeling and looking something-but-not-quite-like my old self again. My nose is back in operation and hopefully my chin is forthcoming too. I don’t expect I’ll have super-model cheekbones, but I would quite like something, nonetheless! I’ve put a bit of eye make up on for the first time in four weeks and am quite confident strutting around town, dribbling and slurping like a fool in Chinese restaurants. Y’know, the best recent development is that I’ve stopped compulsively checking myself out in the mirror. I mean, I wouldn’t… y’know… I wouldn’t want people to think I was vain or something! 😀

25 days post-op... happy jaws!

25 days post-op... happy jaws!

 

Still a bit butter-ball, but I'm getting there!

Still a bit butter-ball around the cheeks, but I'm getting there!

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Even More BUPA Bitching (18 days post-op)

January 21, 2009 at 11:42 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

Hello, hello, hello. Here I am, heading straight for the three week post-op mark with three days to go. Invoices demanding payment are trickling through (ouch) and the ink is currently drying on freshly-written cheques. BUPA’s coverage of my bimaxillary osteotomy (£877.50) seems minimal considering the excess charge that I’m paying for it (£5,023, respectively) but then again, with the current economic clime being what it is the health insurance companies are only going to start tightening the purse strings further. I should count myself lucky for receiving good private health service (in theory I’m all for the NHS, but seeing my consultant once every six months only to be told repeatedly that I’d have to wait another year for braces wasn’t cutting it for me) with hospital costs fully covered. BUPA has been something of an unreliable junkie friend these past couple of months, their use of beaurocratic rhetoric thinly veiling their reluctance to dish out, I suspect… so much so that sometimes I’ve just wanted to pack the whole surgery in and throw a stiletto-heeled shoe at them… but although they came through last minute, ultimately I couldn’t have done it without ’em. So thanks, BUPA. When I finally get writer’s strain in my wrists, arms and elbows, you will be my first port of call because now my family healthcare insurance plan isn’t the impenetrable fog it once was, and I know exactly what I’m entitled to. This whole exercise in persistence, separating the ‘bull’ from the ‘shit’ and the countless hours of being put on hold (BUPA favour middle-of-the-road dad rock, in case you’re curious) has been quite the learning curve for the girl who stuffs all of her paperwork into the imaginary ‘INBOX’ tray at the back of her closet – or even better – her bin.

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Face News (11 days post-op)

January 14, 2009 at 8:58 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

For old times sake... no hard feelings, eh?

For old times sake... no hard feelings, eh?

It was a day of firsts today… first otho visit, first check-up visit with Mr. Bloody-Genius-Surgeon and first proper jaunt out of doors following upper and lower jaw surgery. The notion of the latter had filled me with dread the night before. Would people stop and stare? Would they point and scream? Worse… would they smile politely? As it happens, not one member of the British public gave my butter-ball face a second glance, the London Underground commuters mute and absorbed in headlines of redundancy and The Golden Globe Awards, as always. Which was fine by me… hurrah, for living in the Big Smoke!

Feedback was positive. My orthodontist was pleasantly suprised with how white-washed my teeth suddenly appear (cutting out smoking and red wine may make Jane a dull girl but sure makes the ole gnashers shine) and overall with how my brand-spanking new bite has turned out. I had multiple hooks put on my braces prior to surgery because she hadn’t been sure which teeth would demand some reigning in after, but as it turns out I don’t need the pesky hook inserted right between the front two… a shame as it rubs up against my inner top lip something awful, but then so does my whole brace currently! So, I’ve got these elastics to change each day, which stretch from my top jaw to the bottom to prevent my top jaw from receding and my bottom from protruding. Slight relapse after orthognathic surgery is quite common apparently, the body being stuck in its old habits and patterns of behaviour, but we shall have to see over the course of the next month whether things stay as cuschty as they appear to be now… chewing as much as possible helps to accustom the jaw to the new bite so put down that soup can and get chomping on the soft stuff as much as you can, guys!

As for the visit with my surgeon, that went smoothly as well. When I told him that I still can’t feel my chin as well as patches across my cheeks, he assured me that this is completely normal. My jaw was a bitch to crack open and went through quite a bit of brute force before it relented (I have a mental image of my surgeon taking to my face with a hammer and chisel in the manner of a zany Warner Brothers cartoon) so he’s not suprised that I can’t feel my chin wahtsoever. Now all I have to look forward to is the gradual settling down of my features (week 2-3 is the most rapid when it comes to deflation) and in four weeks time 90% of the swelling will have subsided. Happy days! Will celebrate with a restaurant meal; Mexican, Italian, something sloppy like that… a holiday in the sun… sangria… the six-week promise of recovery has been temptingly laid out before me, its finale glittering like a jewel. So I merrily go on my way… and well chuffed, I am.

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Post-surgery Survival Stratagem

January 12, 2009 at 8:36 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Calling all surgery soldiers. Your objective is orthognathic surgery, your mission is to survive. To this end, I have crafted out the following stratagem to help you survive in the wilderness:

Checklist of Essential Items to Have in Hospital

  • 2/3 boxes of man-size tissues. Ideal for mopping up floods of drool.
  • facial wipes, to cleanse your skin gently whilst your face is all tender and puffy.
  • Vaseline. Keep slapping it on to prevent your lips from drying out and becoming sore.
  • antiseptic mouthwash, baby toothbrush and toothpaste for sensitive teeth. Once you start feeding, it’s important to keep your mouth as clean as possible to prevent getting trapped food decaying in there. Very carefully give your teeth a once over with the brush after your first meal, but be careful not to disturb the stitches in your gums. If you can’t manage to cram a small brush in there, swill with mouthwash instead.
  • eye mask and ear plugs. You’ll need as much rest as possible and sleeping in a busy ward ain’t easy with all the glaring lights and beeps.
  • a couple of bottles of water with sport cap. It’s essential to drink as many fluids as you can, and the cap makes it easy to squirt water through your jaws.
  • large feeding syringe. You can buy these in pharmacies, but if not request one at the hospital. Essential for getting juice and blended food in as you will not be able to open your mouth very wide to begin with. Using a straw unfortunately won’t cut the mustard, as you won’t be able to move or feel your face.
  • own food. It might be a good idea to bring something in to snack on in between meal-times, or in case the hospital food isn’t soft enough for you. Good stuff to bring in are fruit smoothies, blended soup and yoghurt.  Chocolate milk, custard or/and rice pudding can be brought in for a treat.
  • pajamas, slippers, bedsocks and bathrobe for shuffling about in. It can get cold in some part of the hospital, so bring a warm fluffy robe to wrap up in. Also recommended are pajama tops that do up at the front rather than the kind that are pulled on over the head to prevent contact with the jaw.
  • mp3 player, magazine, book, etc. Whatever keeps you entertained, really. Sitting around in a hospital bed is boring as hell after a while. So bring something to entertain you, otherwise you might get lumped with a copy of Good Housekeeping picked up from the waiting room for company. You’ll be feeling drowsy and a tad disconcerted after the op. so music is essential to relax and soothe you, especially as hospital t.v.’s are often pricy to rent out.
  • towel and toiletries: deodorant, shower gel, shampoo etc. Take a shower as soon as you feel up to it, it can get really sticky and unpleasant between those hospital sheets. You’ll feel much better for it.
  • compact mirror. You might as well get it over with and face the music.
  • pen and paper. You jaw will quickly get tired of gabbing with your guests, so it’s useful to have this at hand to communicate with your loved ones when you feel like giving the face a rest. Also, it’s kinda fun to play pictionary!
  • photo of partner/pet/family, cuddly toy, etc. Any trinket from home will do to comfort you when you feel a bit grotty.
  • clothes to wear on leaving the hospital.  Flat shoes, trekkie bottoms and zip-up top are permissable on this day. You’ll feel groggy and want to be as comfy as possible. Don’t worry about stealing out of hospital with a wedding veil to cover your face. Not many people look their best on coming out of hospital and noone is expecting you too!

General Strategies

  • Drink, drink, drink. You won’t feel like drinking much after surgery whilst your fluids are topped up via IVF, but as soon as you are able to get with the mineral water programme. It’s important to regularly pass fluids after the op. Water will prevent dehydration and your body will thank you for it.
  • Food for thought. Similarly, you won’t have any appetite after your surgery, possibly also the day after, but try and ingest as much soup and juice as you can as the sooner you eat the sooner your body will feel better. Two days after surgery you’ll be ravenous. I sure was happy that I had some protein-enriched (essential for the body to heal) chocolate milk with me in hospital, even though by the time I had finished drinking it half of it was forming an abstract pattern on my hospital gown.
  • Don’t avoid mirrors. You’re not a vampire, you’re reflection is there waiting for you after surgery. You’ll be surprised at the person staring back at you through the mirror, but don’t worry too much about your appearance. Hospital patients are too busy wallowing in their own trials to notice you and medical staff are polite and professional. The swelling is a necessary part of recovery and the body’s natural response to trauma. The skin swells up to provide your face with the padding that it needs to heal undisturbed, the body responding like an overprotective mum who swaddles her child in an embarassing neon puffa jacket to protect it from the fierce elements, making the child feel like the laughing stock of the world. It’s quite endearing, when you think about it…
  • Relax. Get to it. If there’s ever a good reason for indolence, post-surgery recovery is a very good one. Certainly take the first week easy, eat/drink as often as you can (your metabolism will go through the roof as your body tries to heal itself), keep a drug dairy so you get into the habit of remembering to take your medication at regular intervals and get as much beauty sleep as you can with your head tilted back at a position of fifty degrees to aid the draining of synovial fluid from your face throughout the night (helps the swelling go down). Practice regaining your speech, but at the same time don’t tire yourself out with talking. Catch up on your reading list instead, watch over favourite feel-good movies/sit-coms (Grey’s Anatomy in my case, in keeping with the medical theme), have friends over to fuss, bring soup and lift your spirits. Keep us updated on your recovery here in Blog Land, of course. We need our survivor stories!

Good night and good luck.

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It’s all about the drugs, the drugs, the drugs… (8 days post-op)

January 11, 2009 at 9:49 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

I can’t deal with drugs (c.f. note). I’m not one of those pharma-junkies who requests numerous bottles of wonder pills for their many minor ailments, totting up their pill count fondly throughout the day. It’s never been a simple matter of popping a pill and chasing the blues away with me. I loathe the vitamin pill. I shun the antacid. Hangovers are medicated by a stiff cup of tea, hiding under the covers and cursing the day I drank (a fruitless endeavour). Easy-absorbed neurofen has of course been my sole friend throughout all of my brace-face related aches and pains – life would be unbearable otherwise – but the greater part of me resists taking even those unless I’m visibly wincing with pain.

I think the reason that I’m so uncomfortable with pills is to do with all of the old wive’s tales of my childhood that led me to believe that my stomach serves as a trash can for all of the chemical coatings and nasties apparently residing within these bite-sized pellets of death (sorry, I mean health). Apparently, there is a relative of mine residing across the Baltic seas, that became accustomed to taking Neurofen’s equivalent for every ache and pain… consequently she suffers from gastro-intestinal discomfort which she alleviates by eating vast amounts of joghurt. Why, oh, why, did she not turn to natural remedy, the family laments… she should have been eating joghurt in the first place to relieve her dental pain! (please, don’t take this as valid advice ortho-pain victims…)

Imagine my discomfort at being prescribed thirteen pills a day following my orthognathic surgery, making up a cocktail of the following; Co-Amoxiclav (penicillin and antibiotics, essentially), Dicloflenac Sodium (painkiller and anti-inflammatory) and paracetamol (500mg x2). These pills are my friends. They stop foreign bodies from attacking me whilst I’m in my delicate post-surgery recovery state. They prevent the ulcers caused by my braces rubbing up against the walls of my swollen mouth from causing me too much gip. They protect my stitches from nasty infection. They halt jaw ache. They even help reduce the puffiness of my face, I’m told. They are wonders of medicine… yet all I can gripe about is the fact that despite losing half a stone after a week’s worth of this soft diet malarky, my tummy is looking swollen and is rocked by cramps throughout the night.

I blame the pills, obviously. Just look at all of the possible side effects they list on the package! They must be there for a reason… and I convince myself that I’m suffering ALL of the symptoms, even though any relation to said symptoms is possibly coincidental, or exagerrated in my mind e.g. itching of the skin (actually, not enough moisturiser)… swelling of the eyelids, lips or face (check, check, check. But quite natural post-orthognathic surgery)… tightness of the chest (following the scaling of three flights of stairs)… anxiety, confusion, sleeplessness (all ritual habits)… change in the colour fo urine (extra-hydration)… even stomach ulcers (which I cannot really feel are there, yet suspect might as well be there. If it’s going to happen to anyone, it might as well be me).

Now for some serious advice to anyone who finds that their medication is causing them slight discomfort. TAKE IT. It will make your experience post-surgery comfortable and safe. Obviously, if it’s anything worse than belly swelling and cramps, notify your pharmacist or the hospital that prescribed the medication to you. Also, it can’t hurt to eat pro-biotic joghurt. It really does soothe sore tummies! Listen to this not yet-old, not yet-wed wife’s tale.

(NB: for the record, there is one drug that I can deal with and that is morphine… on the grounds that on waking up post-surgery you feel like you are floating along a river of [non-brand specific] milk chocolate. And it does not come in pill form).

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Not Just a Pretty Face… five days and still recovering

January 8, 2009 at 11:49 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

This watching and waiting for the swelling to go down is the most irksome thing. I pass by a mirror and can’t help but stop and stare… is my face back? Is my face back? Nope. Nope. Nope. I have to laugh at my own impatience. It’s only been five days! I mean, I get up in the middle of the night to check on the rate of deflation, for chrissakes! Obsessed? Moi?

I’m sure it’s only a passing phase… mirrors in the past have always been considered by me to be a fickle friend. Some days I could face them and some days I couldn’t and wouldn’t. Now I find it impossible for us to  part ways!

This leads me to consider the superficial trap of becoming obsessed with one’s altered appearance post-surgery. It’s natural to feel a little low, but the last thing you want is to feel stuck, like you’re a living statue, trapped inside your own body, all that kind of nonsense. If you’re not in pain and you’re healing slowly but steadily, then you’ve got it good. Besides, as the Buddhists say, all is temporary, all is transient… a healthy philosophy in the case of orthognathic surgery. The skin cells need time to heal, the fluids need to drain, the nerves need to re-connect, and that’s that. There’s no hurrying biology! Believe me, I’d like to, don’t we all, but that’s not how things are done. And I think that the sooner I let go of fretting over my complexion, the sooner I can get back to savouring my time off from the world. Read. Cogitate. Rehabilitate. Enjoy! Frankie says Relax.

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Hurrah! 3 days post-surgery and still alive and (sorta) kicking.

January 6, 2009 at 6:01 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Wow. Well, it’s been a remarkable journey, first foray into surgery and all a’that. Let me tell you, it feels terrific to know that the pre-surgery mayhem is finally over and that the job is finally done, having anticipating this thing since the age of what, twelve? Now my new face just has to heal and grow. And it’s definitely been worth it.

Okay, so I look into the mirror and I see some kind of cross between a six-year old and a chipmunk, but so what? I though the result would be a lot more tragic. The damnedest thing is that prior to orthognathic surgery I had dreaded the idea of walking past mirrors once I’d become all swollen up, thinking that it would demoralise and upset me to see myself looking so utterly unrecognisable. But on my first reticient visit to the bathroom in the hospital, tenderly leaning on a sympathetic, young nurse, I glimpsed my mug in the mirror’s reflection and felt completely disconnected from the whole thing. I know that 60% of the swelling will have gone down in two weeks. The best sight in the world was actually waking up from my surgery, sky-high on morphine, with my surgeon leaning over me with a mirror revealing a profile that I haven’t seen since I was about ten-year’s old. I had worried that I’d wake up post-op and wouldn’t recongise myself. Actually, I’d say that I found myself!

More updates forthcoming. Gotta get those all-important fluids in with the plethora of drugs I’m on, so the next couple of entries might be a tad scatty.

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When it comes to Health Insurance, it pays to be persistent… 4 days to go

December 30, 2008 at 11:35 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

Unbelievable! Complete and utter Zen has washed over me. The gods above have slipped something sweet and mellow into my glass of red wine… all is well with me and my savings account. I think.

For those of you out there who receive the news four days prior to surgery from your health insurance that they’re still pending your surgeon’s report… don’t rule out the possibility that this is a bold faced lie! The report was sent through last week and my surgeon’s secretary received the confirmation that it was sent through. Now, when I call up BUPA health care insurance, I’m told that it hasn’t been sent through. LIES! Very firmly but calmly I tell them that they had better double check that, otherwise Mr B’s secretary is off her flippin’ nut. The lady at BUPA put me on hold for 5 minutes (ghastly recorded music, obligatory…) before telling me… oh look, we have got it after all. Great, I say. Now how about my authorization code? I have a flattering hospital gown to model in four days time!

Apparently, because my surgeon’s rates are a little higher than BUPA had anticipated, they’re still in the process of reviewing the report, but no worries, they’ll get back to me the afternoon before my surgery at the latest. See that you do, I say. After all, I’m entitled to £6000-8000 insurance!

I feel a lot more calm now, safe in the knowledge that the money that BUPA will cover can go towards something else that I may need in the future, like a wedding on the beach, or a university education for each of the kids, or a nice, retirement home in the country-side to perish in… but my imagination runs away with me.

People, remember that if you have BUPA healthcare, then the cost of your hospital stay ought to be fully covered. Most of the anaesthetist’s fee ought to be covered, as well as a portion of the surgeon’s fee (depending on his overall charge). Don’t let the insurance companies screw you. Down with bureaucratic chaos and ‘failures in communication’. Thank you.

(NB: some posey pics I had done prior to work as a film extra, taken days after my bottom brace was put on. As much as my profile makes me cringe, these helped me get over my mortal fear of cameras. At least for a while. Mind you, these were taken one and a half years ago, and my underbite is far more pronounced now.)

Two...
Three

Three...Vogue!

Sorry about the rubbish/haphazard/confusing lay-out of these pictures. It took me about twenty-three minutes to upload, downsize and distribute them more-or-less aesthetically on the page. This comes from the girl who spent her I.T. lessons swivelling anxiously on her chair and trying to find out which lewd terms were forbidden by the school’s search engine.

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Lost in Bureaucracy… 5 days to go

December 29, 2008 at 2:33 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

So I’m five days away from a bimaxillary Osteotomy costing me a total of £12,250.000, to which I’m entitled some insurance courtesy of BUPA. Have I received any yet? No. Am I freaking out? Are you kidding me?

I am yet to bleed out the truth of the matter, but from the sounds of it the details/codes etc. of my surgery haven’t gone through to BUPA. There are two possibilities as to who is to blame. The first being that the fax got lost in BUPA’s bureaucracy. The second being that my surgeon’s secretary is incapable of sending a fax. I’m not sure which reason is more plausible anymore, to be honest. Last time I wrung my hands on this matter to my surgeon, he said that the previous two transcribed messages had failed and he’d get his secretary straight away onto faxing the report through to BUPA. If this fax indeed hasn’t gone through, then what’s left for me? Report via carrion pigeon? It wouldn’t surprise me…

My heart is beating like a butterfly over the massive chunk this surgery will bite out of my savings account if the insurance doesn’t come through. I’ll have to refuse point blank to have it. Point blank. Hell, I will survive a couple more weeks with an underbite. I’ve made it this far. I’m entitled to insurance and I will have it, by God! I’m not throwing my near-future into jeopardy over the matter of my face…

I’m going out for steak, which may or may not be the last one I have in the following couple of months. Who knows! What the heck is a girl to do in the mean time… luckily, I’m seeing my surgeon tommorow so I will urge him to sort his secretary out. Or no go. No. Go.

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Seven Days Till Surgery… and counting

December 27, 2008 at 10:04 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

So this is where I introduce myself to my prospective audience, is it? Hello God, are you there? It’s me. Brace Face.

I’m a 21 year-old white female with an open bite, a receded upper jaw and a protruding lower jaw a.k.a. underbite. In precisely a week’s time I’ll be rolling into King’s College Hospital, London, at 6.45 a.m. where I will be poked for blood and prepped for my Bimaxillary Osteotomy. During a surgical procedure which will last approx. 4 hours I’ll have a Le Fort I Maxillary Osteotomy and a Sagittal Split Mandibular Osteotomy carried out on meself… tadaaa… new face!

If any of this sounds at all familiar to you then you have come to the right place. If there are people with a story to tell concerning orthognathic surgery out there in Blog Land then I want to hear from you… words of wisdom, words of encouragement, words of hope… words are good. Relate your experiences to me because, Sweet Jesus, I’m freaking out ever so slightly about this surgery which together with two year’s worth of private orthodontic treatment is probably costing me the monetary equivalent of a small Italian vehicle, a zippy speedboat, a six-month holiday retreat on some sun-drenched isle, or any number of fun frippieries that don’t require the breaking and readjusting of my face.

People, I am by no means neurotic when it comes to facing the facts of life, the facts being that I’m going to have this surgery in a week’s time and several months following it I will look sideways at myself in the mirror for the first time in my life and not cringe. But permit a girl to be a little nervous. As well as a little narcissistic. I know that my better half loves me, whatever the alignment of my jaws. And I know that I can pass some days (when I’m not tired, or wearing yesterday’s make up and when viewed in certain light) for a fairly attractive person and anyway, what matters isn’t aesthetic beauty (which is subjective) but content of character i.e. ambition, empathy, and all that jazz. But it’s difficult not to fall prey to the odd twinge of vanity when those painfully self-conscious teenage years remain much unrecorded due to destroyed photographic evidence caused by shame and embarassment. That reclusive teenager still sits somewhere deep inside a lot of us, whether we feel much related to her in our adult lives or not. She still freaks out on occasion when she senses that someone is looking at her profile from that angle.

But this is an issue most people bestowed with an underbite know something about. The question is, Where does surgery end and the person begin? That is, Why are we putting ourselves through such a costly procedure? And will it be worth it in the end?

Introducing... me

Introducing... me

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