|I think this sign says something like "Come on in|
so we can make you look better than you do right now."
You may also recall that I did not believe in dermatologists: I was raised to believe they were for the very sick (lepers, perhaps) or for wealthy hypochondriacs. My visit nudged me in the more positive direction, but I'm still a little skeptical. Now that was for dermatologists. Not only do I not believe in plastic surgery but I'm completely against it except in cases of horrific disfigurement (bear attack, flaming bear attack, or alien probing). I might be considered a self-righteous plastic surgery opponent. A veritable bra-burning enemy of the guild who believes plastic surgeons are in the same circle of hell as the designers who make women's bathing suits. Of course, I'd not really needed plastic surgery (though I considered its benefits during my skinny adolescence when I longed to have curves). So, yeah, I'm like that friend who judges your parenting skills but has never had her own kids.
|I don't know how they selected "Brenda" (my middle name)|
for the appointment card, but there you have it.
I had no idea what to expect during or after the surgery: the clinic had provided no forms, paperwork, or information, and Google was unhelpfully silent on particulars. Maybe, I wondered, my eyes would be swathed in bandages like a Scooby-Doo mummy? Or I'd get unsightly black eyes requiring me to lie quietly in a dim room reading novels instead of studying Korean or doing laundry? I wasn't terribly nervous, at least until the drive there when I wondered if I'd ever see the blue ocean again.
|A series of giant ads showed new and exciting ways |
to look better than you did huffing up the stairs.
We walked up to the 3rd floor office, huffing unattractively up the stairs as we passed numerous larger-than-life ads picturing happy folks who'd had successful surgeries for things I didn't even know were ailments. By the time we reached the office, I had dozens of new things to worry about: excessive sweat, non-glowing skin, freckles, etc.
|After doing the reception desk dance |
(where I pretend to know no Korean and they pretend to know no English),
we waited on comfy velour couches.
|Korea: where hospital patients can publicly roam with IV in tow.|
In the bedroom, the nurse asked Sara to tell me to remove my sandals and put on the cushy plaid slippers sitting by the door. She then pointed me next door (2 feet away) to the dim operating room, where Sara was not allowed to go as she didn't have the requisite "sterile" slippers. To sum up thus far: I do not believe in plastic surgery but here I stand with circles on my eyelids, wearing someone else's fuzzy slippers and my regular clothes (American health practitioners, please note that gowns are ridiculous), and now I have NO TRANSLATOR for delicate eyelid surgery by a Korean plastic surgeon. I rapidly reconsidered the wisdom of this scenario, especially when the nurse recalled Sara to stand in the doorway to instruct me to drop my pants (see more of this particular part of the story here). Ah...ok, Fine. It's an adventure, I tell myself. I got my "hip" shot, restored my pants, and got onto the bed sans slippers, in which I had shuffled a total distance of 6.2 feet.
After laying on the narrow bed of heavenly softness (America: are you listening?) the kind nurse gently pulled back my hair and washed my face. She crossed my hands over my abdomen (resembling the classic "coffin pose" just a little too much for my comfort), then laid surgical-type sheets over me with just my face (and toes) peeking out. While another nurse gave me shots next to each eye, the first woman reached under the sheets and held my hand. (America: again, pay attention. When friends here had LASEK eye surgery they were given a stuffed pig for comfort. I do love this place).
Dr. Hong sat behind my head, snapped on some gloves, did a brief close-up exam under the bright light (I kept my eyes closed - personal space invasion makes me tense), then asked me IN EXCELLENT ENGLISH whether he could remove the little bumps ("milia") next to my left eye. I offer three, nay four, comments on this:
- I don't know why Dr. Hong did the "let's pretend we need a translator" dance during the initial consultation.
- I've had those little bumps for so long I didn't remember having them. Probably something obvious to every person I've met in 20 years. Kind of embarrassing.
- His offer to take out the milia is what Koreans would call 서비스 (saw-bee-seh) which means "service" or "free." I like free. I try not to suspect him of softening up my attitude toward plastic surgery.
- Before taking out the milia (and before putting in and removing the stitches over the next few visits), Dr. Hong consistently said in his very serious man voice: "It will a little bit hurt." It's probably not appropriate that I found it adorable every single time.
|Getting stitches put in. Do you love the surgical sheet?|
When I saw this picture later, I was a wee bit dismayed
by the stains around the edges...
|Post-surgery: at least 10 tiny bandages (think angel-hair pasta in 1/2" lengths) are above each eye.|
|We filled my 2-dose prescription for antibiotics in the downstairs pharmacy. |
I am still amused by the fact that the bright red word for medicine on the dozens of pharmacies
in town sounds a lot like the English word "yuck." :)
|Here is my post-surgical prescription. |
Yeah, I can't read it either, but the pharmacist spoke decent English.
And you just have to trust that no one is slipping you laxatives or viagra.
When I returned a few days later to get the "tapes" off, I learned that I'd had 9 stitches for one eyelid and 5 for the other. I believe that I am now a contender in Nick's Family Stitches Count, though I think brother Chris is still winning given his unfair head start with open heart surgery as an infant.
|Dr. Hong removing my bandages and stitches.|
Overall, I do like Dr. Hong, despite his gruff manner. I would recommend him to others. Even the Chief Desk Ajumma has grown on me as she tries out her English and the nurses giggle at her behind their hands. But over several visits it became clear that my thin justification for having plastic surgery has put me on a very greasy slope indeed. Each time I'm in the waiting room, the large TV screen showed animations of how one's various parts can be (bloodlessly) made larger or smaller or less sweaty or otherwise enhanced.
|Let's just say this is not the most explicit picture |
to appear on the waiting room TV screen.
Ok, maybe that's just advertising. Maybe my surgeon, my nice Dr. Hong, would have different standards. He surely focuses on restoring damage and repairing the results of sin and evil on human flesh. But then I noticed that all the women in the waiting room were holding pink plastic ice packs to their jaws just below their ears; the nurse would regularly come out and give them new ones. Strange that they would all have the same injury to be fixed. So as Dr. Hong examined my healing eyelids, I couldn't resist asking about the women. The nurse (who had never indicated any knowledge of English before this point) started giggling. After a long, awkward moment, Dr. Hong explained in his serious voice that the women had gotten botox shots in the jaw muscle (the masseter) to make their chins appear slimmer and more Caucasian/pointed instead of Asian/square (see here for details and photos). Wow. Still clinging to my hope that Dr. Hong wasn't one of "those" kinds of plastic surgeons, I reasoned that this was probably just a group of friends and he did this unusual favor for them. Feeling chatty, I asked him what kind of surgery he does most often. And I wished that I hadn't. His most common surgery isn't for repairing burn scars or restoring post-mastectomy breasts. No. His most common surgery is the double-eyelid surgery for Korean women, followed by the botox injections to create more Western chins.
My Dr. Hong is one of those surgeons after all. And there is no getting around that what I had done to make my eyes less "unsightly" was about the same as the double-crease and botox ladies. I'm grateful to have the bumps gone, but the fading scars will remind me of my foolish judgments.