When I quit drinking three years ago, I lost three stones very quickly. My face lost volume and sag, especially around my neck and jawline. Now every time I look in the mirror, the person looking back looks drawn, tired and unhappy.
So I opted for a deep facelift, a major operation to lift the muscles and fascia under the face, not just the skin. It would have the most lasting results (usually about 10 years) but it is a technical and complex operation that requires an experienced doctor.
I sent photos of my face to a surgeon in Turkey contacted through a UK-based medical tourism company. They arranged an online consultation with a plastic surgeon I will call Dr. K based in a hospital in Antalya. He has experience in deep facelifts and maxillofacial surgery. He also seems reassuringly honest, not admitting that I “need” all the procedures I originally wanted – so no brow or lip lifts yet.
Dr. K has worked in America, written medical papers, and is a member of many regulatory bodies, so I’m confident he’s a good choice. In addition, the fact that it operates in a real private hospital is reassuring in the event of a problem. I paid a deposit of £500. I wish I could have this procedure in the UK, but it’s out of my budget. The total price for my deep face lift in Turkey is £5,250, while in the UK experienced surgeons can charge upwards of £40,000.
Just when I thought things were happening I tested positive for Covid which means my planned operation in January has to be postponed until March – I am told that after infection there is a higher risk of blood clots.
Although I’m gutted, it still happens and I go through my days having moments of “Oh my God, what have I done?” interspersed with good excitement. I am always researching my surgeon online and looking for anyone who has reported bad experiences – so far so good.
I had a few more online video consultations with the medical team and the medical tourism company advised me to stop taking certain medications a few days before the operation, such as Ritalin which I am taking for recently diagnosed ADHD ; this could interfere with the anesthesia.
Planning a quiet – and inexpensive – Christmas meeting my 24 year old son for lunch. He agrees with me about the intervention, saying he just wants me to be happy.
January 2022: two more months
I’m starting to get nervous, mainly because of the anesthesia.
I spend a lot of time on surgery forums on Facebook and read other people’s experiences to glean information on what to expect. I bought arnica tablets to relieve post-operative bruising and bromelain, a supplement to fight swelling and inflammation. Also reduce garlic and onion because I read they thin the blood and promote bleeding. Only button up tops and pajamas should be taken as it is difficult to get anything over the head with all the stitches and bandages. There is so much to think about and it all feels very unfamiliar.
A month to go
I started telling friends that I really want it. Many are supportive, but others try to talk me out of it or say it’s “vain”, “stupid” or “unnecessary”. It’s as if you dare to say, “Actually, I’m not happy to watch like that”, others feel uncomfortable or judged. But that’s more than vanity to me; it’s as much about mental health as physical appearance.
I’m still shopping for travel. I have ice packs ready to inflate and also little luxuries like pairs of super fluffy booties to help me out when I’m in post-op discomfort (which I actively try not to think about). Here is the hope.
I booked the week off and arranged for a friend to look after my shop, Madame Popoff Vintage, and my pug Kobe. A little nervous that when Dr. K sees me in real life he will make changes to what he thinks needs to be done.
A day to do
I stayed in an airport hotel the day before my flight to Antalya. During the flight, I am both excited and nervous – not helped by the plane’s aborted first landing. I spend five minutes stressing that we’re going to crash in the mountains and I’m going to die because of my vanity. After landing safely on the second attempt, I try not to dwell on the drama as a harbinger of what’s to come.
A driver meets me to take me straight to the hospital for pre-op tests – everything from X-rays to lung function, blood and Covid tests, plus an ECG…I pass with flying colors.
I spend the night at the hotel where I will be staying after the operation, then tomorrow is the big day.
March 26, 2022: three hours before
I haven’t eaten since yesterday. At 9 am, a driver picks me up at the hotel, and at the hospital I meet Dr K for the first time. His initial assessment is valid – no eyebrow or lip lift, but a deep lift with liposuction under the chin.
As he marks the incisions on my face and says he’ll see me after the procedure, I feel oddly calm. Last night I had visions of myself running down the hospital hallway towards the exit with my butt dangling out of a hospital gown, but not today.
I need this.
Three hours after the operation
Excluding surgery. I can’t see much because of the swelling around my eyes. Drains in my face remove excess blood and fluid, and a catheter means I don’t have to get up. It’s not painful – I take a lot of medication – but my face is very constricted and my jaw hurts from having my mouth open for so long during the procedure.
Shocked to learn that the operation took six hours and that I needed a fat transfer from my chin to the area around the cheeks to create more volume.
When I look in the mirror, it’s like a particularly beaten cage fighter is looking at me. Feeling tearful and full of regrets.
One day after the operation
I leave the hospital with a bag of medicine, including painkillers and antibiotics to prevent infection. At the hotel I try to sleep. I’m exhausted but I can’t doze off. I have to stay on my feet for the next few days to help the excess fluid drain out and not irritate the stitches – a challenge for a side sleeper like me. My eyes are too puffy to find my way to the ice machine in the hallway and I’m wearing a “face bra” – the equivalent of a pair of surgical stockings, which goes under your chin and around your head – both to support my face and to reduce bruising and swelling.
Antibiotics and painkillers make me feel a little weird and in the middle of the night I wake up depressed. The magnitude of this just struck me.