Monday, February 9, 2009

Face Transplant...a success!

I read about this woman's ordeal, back in Decemember on this site. When I saw these words, so badly injured that only her upper eyelids, forehead, lower lip and chin were left.
I have scars too. Mine aren't so easy to see because they aren't on my face, they're on my left arm and leg. I had extensive skin graphing done when I was about 4 yrs. old because of a birthmark. The birthmark is what's known as a Giant Hairy Nevus. Google it, you'll see pictures. So far I'm the only person to have it cover such a large portion of the body. And from what the doctor told me recently, he's never in his career seen anyone with a GHN that covered the entire arm and shoulder. It made the surgery extra difficult, because they had to remove all the skin from that arm and replace it with new skin. Working with the shoulder took several hours. I was in and out of the hospital so many times that now just walking into one has me anxious and ready to claw my way out. I can remember being held face down, screaming while they shoved a needle in my rear to knock me out. Those images stay with a person.

After the last surgery, mom was told I wasn't supposed to be able to use my arm, because the skin on my shoulder was particulary difficult to operate on. Raising my arm or being able to move it around would be next to impossible for me to do. To add to that I have no fat cells on that arm. The doctor found that particularly interesting and when he saw me recently I could see he was surprised by how much use I've been able to get out of my left arm. I'm left handed and I can use it just as easily as I can my right arm. Although, it does get tired, and my arm will ache after a day of writing. My wrist, elbow and shoulder will feel swollen and stiff. I can't lift heavy things, or the next day I'm paying for it with a lot of pain. If I bump my arm it hurts like crazy because there's no fat to cushion it. If I go out in public with a tank top on, or to a water park with a bathing suit, I get curious looks. Some people frown. I've even heard people say, 'oh gross'. You wouldn't believe some of the things they've said to me.
A picture of me in Maine. You can sort of see the scars, but they don't show up too much in this pic. I normally don't show pictures of me if my arm is visible. Usually I wear long sleeves.

The truth is, none of that even compares to what this woman has endured. Her disfigurement was the result of an injury. And it was her face that was damaged. Knowing the looks I've gotten, I can imagine the sorts of comments she's had to overhear. The frightened eyes of a child, the frowns from adults. The pity.

This woman's quality of life was altered in a way that most of us couldn't even begin to imagine. When I was little I used to resent having this arm. I was called horrible names. I couldn't understand why me, why did I have to suffer? I just wanted to be like everyone else. I didn't want to be different.

Well, this woman's story has touched me greatly. I realize now how lucky I was and good I have it now. When I read that She can eat pizza. And hamburgers. She can smell perfume, drink coffee from a cup, and purse her lips as if to blow a kiss. It blew me away. We take so much for granted every single day and we don't even realize it.

Today I'm thankful for the life I have, for the husband who loves me AND my arm. For my kids, who have had to hear people say nasty things to their mom. For the fact that I had a mother who didn't sit back and treat me like I was disabled. She didn't accept that I wouldn't be able to use my arm and because she thought I could, so did I. Today I'm esp. thankful for those doctors. They changed a woman's life and there's something beautiful about that.


Regina Carlysle said...

I tend to think these kinds of things can make us stronger. I'm so sorry you had to deal with this and all the operations. As to the people who stare or comment? Whatever happened to manners? I hope they never have to know how hard this kind of thing can be. I admire you so much for dealing with this with strength and courage. You are one of the nicest people I know..and very pretty, too!

Kelley Nyrae said...

Stuff like that is hard to deal with but it does make you stronger. I don't understand the staring and comments ESPECIALLY from adults. My 13 month old had a flat head in the back and had to wear a helmet on her head from 6 months until she was 12 months old. I swear, kids almost never stared. Once in a while they would ask while she wore it but that didn't bother me. Adults on the other hand...that was a different story. They would stare, whisper stuff. Once a guy who was probably about mid fifties pointed and laughed. I told him she had to wear it for medical reasons and he shut up. I think some people just though I was obsessive and put it on her so she wouldn't bump her head but still...THINK before you speak or act a fool, ya know? Another time at Wal Mart these two ladies were staring and almost ran over my other daughter. I grabbed her and said, "watch out baby. Some people don't have manners and won't stop staring at your sister". It was so frustrating.

Ignore everyone. You're beautiful inside and out and have a terrific family and friends who love you :)

Liane Gentry Skye said...

What a powerful post.

Having two disabled kids, I've watched them cry a million tears as they have endured the harsh comments of strangers who haven't a clue what's wrong with them, but still feel free to offer their hateful comments.

I've come to realize that pretty truly is as pretty does. And you, my dear, are gorgeous. So are my babies.

Truth is, for most of us, challenge is just a word we bat around when we don't want to do another load of laundry.

You're a real life heroine!


Anne Rainey said...

Regina--It's amazing to me that adults can be so cruel. Kids can be curious, it's natural, but when an adult man frowns at you and says 'oh gross', then points you out to his daughter so she can gawk too, that really makes a person just want to hit something. Still, I'm so blessed. I think about what this other woman has had to deal with having injuries to her face and it just makes me want to hug her and never let go.

Kelley--I didn't know you had to deal with that. I'll yell at you later for not leaning on me ( ;-) ). Your daughters are lucky to have such a loving mama!

Liane--YOU are my hero. I don't know how you do all that you do. I'm truly amazed by you.

Cindy said...

Oh Anne,I couldn't agree with you more,my hubby got burnt on 70% of his legs with acid,when he was 18, we were dating by this time,& it took a long time for his legs to heal,but in the mean time,he had to wear shorts,& the comments people made. I swear I don't understand why parents don't teach there children,much less themselves about respect & treating & talking about people like there not human,I just don't understand it,it's a sad world sometimes that we live in.
So that makes it extra special,when people like you reconize the good in our world today! Thanks, Cindy

Mia Varano said...

Kids will always stare at what's different and maybe laugh out of nervousness, but adults should know better. There's a show called Jackass where these young guys, some skateboarders, do dumbass things, and there's a guy on that show who's a dwarf and calls himself Wee Man. My son and I were in Target yesterday, and my son said in awed tones, "There's Wee Man." I turned and Wee Man was walking with his regular-sized girlfriend. My son said, "What's up, man?" And Wee Man smiled and said, "How's it going, buddy?" My son was thrilled and best of all, he doesn't think of Wee Man as a dwarf - just a cool guy who does dumbass things on TV. LOL When he sees a dwarf now, he just shrugs because he or she is like Wee Man. Once certain disabilities seem "normal" to kids, they no longer stare or whisper. Anne, you're a strong, beautiful woman!

Emma Lai said...


Very touching post. It's so sad to see how cruel people can be with their thoughtlessness. Children are beautiful gifts and should be treated as such no matter what problems they might have.


Anne Rainey said...

Cindy--I'm sorry your husband had to deal with that. Sometimes I just can't help but shake my head. People can be so cruel.

{Mia wrote}Once certain disabilities seem "normal" to kids, they no longer stare or whisper. --SOOO True, Mia!

Emma--Yes, every child is a blessing! I agree 100%!

Sophia Danu said...

Wow! All of these posts are powerful! You are all an amazing group of women and I am glad to be here among you. Thanks for sharing.

In my personal belief, we are all beautiful and unique and special in the eyes of God. I wish everyone shared this thought.

I feel pity for those who are so insecure with themselves that they viciously attack others. These are the people with the problem.

Mary Ricksen said...

My sister has a daughter who is autistic. She sometimes is uncontrollable. So ignorant people stare and make comments. My sister handles it better then I would.
You are beautiful, obviously outside and after reading your blog, inside too. There are a lot of us who have other problems, being overweight has made me a target many times. So I understand how you feel. So what can we do? Nothing. There are those who will never get it. But what a thrill to know those who do!

Anonymous said...

You're a strong and beautiful woman. Everyone fortunate enough to know you knows that!

Tanja said...

Thank your for sharing both stories: yours and hers. You remind us of what's important.

Anonymous said...

I had a great aunt whose right hand was crippled as a young teen when their house shifted during a tournado. All the fingers were pulled together and had no movement. Her mother refused to accept that she couldn't relearn to do things. She crocheted as a hobby, but her business was wedding catering. She used to make the most exquisite wedding cakes.
I also had a schoolmate who was severely burned by pulling over a pot of boiling water as a child. She had very visible scarring, but to us, that was just part of who she was.
Both of these wonderful ladies taught me to look at the person inside. The visible marks are just as much a part of them as any other feature, but they are only part of the picture.

Desirée Lee said...

It's amazing what medical technology can help today.

It's also a sad testament that even in our supposedly equal society, people who are not "perfect" are subjected to harsh comments, criticism and even ostracism.

Even harder sometimes are the disabilities that aren't visible. My right lung partially collapsed when I was young and wasn't caught in time so I've lost function in that part of my lung. I have a heart condition, two permanent back injuries and knees that are heading toward surgery eventually. You can't tell any of this by looking at me, but when I'm having a "bad day" you don't want to get stuck walking behind me in a store, because I have to go along at a snail's pace. People might let a person in a wheelchair or using another assistive device ahead of them in the checkout line, but never one who doesn't "look" disabled. Perception is a powerful motivator.

The next time you get a gawker Anne, flail your arms and shout "OOGY BOOGY BOOGY!" They'll quit soon enough.

Actually, that wouldn't be taking the high road. Perhaps you should calmly, frankly explain your situation, just as you did in this blog post. Educating people is one of the keys to fostering a better understanding and a spirit of compassion.

Carpe Noctem,

Desirée Lee
Putting the Romance Back in Necromancy

Anne Rainey said...

Sophia--I agree. I can't figure out why anyone would say something so cruel. It has never made any sense to me. I hope it never does.

Mary--I can understand the overwhieght thing. My mom is overweight and it's always amazed me how people just assume it's because she eats a ton of food. And because she's heavy it's like she's less of a person or something. It pisses me off.

Anne Rainey said...

Theresa--thanks for the complimentAND for stopping by! It's so nice to see you here! :)

Tanja--Yes, exactly!

Anne Rainey said...

bookdragon--My hope is that my kids will have that same kind of understanding and will pass that outlook onto their friends, etc. And your aunt sounds amazing!

Des--You've made me aware today. I never thought about the problems one doesn't see. You're right, a lot of times we get frustrated, not knowing the why of it. Very good point!

Vonda Sinclair said...

A very touching post, Anne. I'm sorry to hear you've had to endure the mean comments. I've always thought you are beautiful inside and out.

Anne Rainey said...

Vonda--Thank you! Today I don't feel beautiful though, just depressed from all this crappy weather! LOL I need sunshine!