four hands are better than two
CHERYL GERBER PHOTOGRAPH
“It all started with earrings. A friend gave me a pair last Christmas. I put them on for a picture and, oh my gosh, there was my neck, a florid turkey neck,” says Sarah Thomas, not her real name, an area resident who came to New Orleans for college and never left.
Thomas is in great shape for north of 55 and south of 60. She is a trim 5-foot-9-inch-tall dynamo weighing in at about 130 pounds. She attends exercise and yoga classes and is an avid walker. She is as comfortable at bridge tables and civic functions as she is on tennis courts. She is divorced and her children are all over age 21.
“All my friends were getting things done, like face lifts, but most of them were a few years older than me. Except for a few little lines on my forehead, I didn’t have facial wrinkles. I didn’t have any crow’s feet or lines under my eyes. I didn’t need a face-lift but my turkey neck was driving me crazy. And then there were my muffin tops. They really were not all that noticeable unless I was wearing jeans or workout clothes, but they were not to my liking.”
For all those readers unfamiliar with muffin tops, join your faithful medical scribe. “When a woman wears a pair of tight jeans that makes her flab spill out over the waistband, just like the top of a muffin sits over the edge of the paper case” is the definition in Urban Dictionary, the online site that got me into hot water with a hospital administrator a few months ago. (I circulated an email link defining their oft-used word “provider” in a not-so-medical way.)
Thomas had miniature muffin tops compared to what you see in all those emailed pictures of Wal-Mart shoppers. Even though diminutive, her midriff overlay was getting on her last nerve, as we say in New Orleans.
Thomas heard about the team of Drs. Parker Velargo and Russell Hendrick through friends. She attended a question-and-answer session. They showed before and after pictures from their actual cases. These two young plastic surgeons both attended Brother Martin, Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and LSU medical school. They went to different states after medical school for specialized training not available in Louisiana. Defying the frequently heard dictum that medical students practice in the state where they do their advanced training, both returned to New Orleans. They partnered to establish the New Orleans Center for Aesthetics and Plastic Surgery in 2014.
Dr. Velargo focuses on head and neck plastic surgery working from the neck up for cosmetic and reconstructive procedures, laser therapy and injectables involving the face, nose, eyelids, lips, ears and neck. Dr. Hendrick takes over below the neck with breast augmentations and reductions, tummy tucks, liposuction and body lifts often needed after gastric bypass surgery. Hand rejuvenation with dermal fillers and skin resurfacing is a special interest.
“I could get my neck lift and liposuction to erase my muffin tops all at the same time with only one surgery center fee and one anesthesiologist fee. They saved me several thousand dollars even after adding in an additional surgeon’s fee,” says Thomas, echoing a team approach with both surgeons working on a different body region at the same time.
“A family member drove me to an out-patient surgery center just across the street from their office for 8 a.m. one Monday in February. I know nurses often explain procedures before surgery and what to expect after surgery, but Dr. Velargo and Dr. Hendrick themselves went over all the details again with my family member and me, including what medicines I would take. They both pulled out Sharpies making marks on my skin for landmarks.
“Dr. Velargo explained that I would be going home in a helmet device. It would be adjusted to put pressure on my neck incisions to reduce swelling. Dr. Hendrick described how my liposuction incisions would be below my bikini line and that I would wake up from surgery with a pressure girdle to wear overnight. It had slits to open when I needed to go to the bathroom.
“Once I was under, both surgeons worked on me at the same time. I think it took about three hours, and then I was in recovery for a few more hours. I was back home in bed by 4 p.m. all decked out in that helmet and pressure girdle. I needed a few pain pills for incision pain, but the pressure devices, while not painful, were uncomfortable. Once I took a sleeping pill, I slept well.
“The next morning my relative drove me back to see the doctors. Dr. Velargo removed the helmet and Dr. Hendrick got me out of that girdle. They inspected all the incisions and instructed us on cleaning each incision with hydrogen peroxide three times a day to keep down the ooze and to reduce scab and scar formation.
“I took some more pain pills after I got home, but I really didn’t have any pain after that. They said I could get out of the house by Thursday, so there I was walking a mile or two around my neighborhood with a scarf around my neck and concealer to cover minor bruising. They told me not to drive for a week, which meant one more trip back to the office with my friend a week later for suture removal.
“After two weeks I went to Florida to visit relatives, no grass growing under my feet. At first the plan was to stay away from exercise class and yoga for a month, but my recovery went so well that the doctors let me go back early. All my incisions healed beautifully and are inconspicuous, including the ones behind my ears.
“Both doctors made me feel so comfortable” Thomas says, “I love my new crisp neckline, and I don’t miss those muffin tops. They got me to my happy point.”
When are Two Surgeons Better Than One?
There are many plastic surgery procedures out there. It is hard to be a jack-of-all-trades plastic surgeon these days.
This allows each surgeon to individualize his or her areas of expertise for a more comprehensive and specialized care.
Two surgeons operating on separate body areas at the same time cuts total operating time, meaning less anesthesia fees and operating room costs.
We perform rhinoplasty and breast augmentations in the same surgical setting. Face lifts and tummy tucks are two other common procedures that we do simultaneously.
One recovery period after two surgeries at the same time translates into a faster return to work. Total recovery time is decreased compared to the time it would take to recover from two surgeries at different times.
Source: Excerpted from an interview with Dr. Parker Velargo and Dr. Russell Hendrick on eHealth Radio accessed from PlasticSurgeryNola.com