The third installment in this year’s medical updates….
My 3rd bleomycin treatment with Dr. Berenstein was a nice excuse to experience Manhattan in October. (You can read about the treatments in my first recap here: “Continuing my Medical Journey“)
Though the timing was not ideal (I left the day after my GRE and missed 3 midterms plus a group presentation…oops!), I was fortunate enough to have understanding professors who accommodated my medical schedule. 24 hours after finishing the graduate school admissions exam, I was en route to New York City and reunited with my mom after 2 months apart.
Flying over North Carolina was glorious. There were little neighborhoods nestled in the masses of thick green trees, unlike the brown grids we see flying into SoCal, Phoenix, and New York. And the Charlotte airport – it had white rocking chairs. I wanted to stay forever.
We made the best of Sunday with a Broadway show (Wicked!) and dinner at Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain. Living on my own, I rarely ever cook meat. Maybe once a month. So I went away from my norm and got a pork chop with yummy sweet potatoes mixed with plantains and greens. I think I impressed the waiter when he came to take away an almost perfectly-clean plate ;)
Monday morning meant time to check into the hospital….the actual purpose of our East Coast holiday. The typical routine proceeded. I’m under anesthesia the entire process as Dr. Berenstein monitors the facial nerves while tracking the bloodflow in the network of blood vessels. He injects small doses of bleomycin into the veins, which will kill them and their branches over the next 6 weeks. 48 hours after leaving the hospital I was headed back to school, ready to take 2 more of my midterms. No rest for the weary. :)
The night before we left New York again, my mom and I had dinner at a restaurant on the corner of our street on the Upper East Side. Couples, families and friends filled the tables around us, and the overwhelming majority were in their own little bubble, glued to their smart phone. It was a sad sight to see couples sitting across from each other, silent, faces lit up with the blue glow of their screen, thumbs numb from scrolling up and up, completely oblivious to the people right in front of them. I love the convenience of having my phone, especially for taking pictures. I check my SportsCenter alerts and my Instagram feed daily. But honestly, seeing how detached we look when our heads are pointed down towards that brick in our palm makes me more conscious about the amount of time I spend mindlessly pushing buttons.
It’s HOMECOMING WEEKEND and this sports marketing intern has some work to do. :)
One quick follow-up on my procedure and then I will return to this blog’s intended purpose: health & fitness!
At some point, the fun had to end. I checked into the hospital for a new procedure to continue improving the venous malformation on the left side of my face. We met with my surgeons once more to discuss the plan of attack. Dr. Milton Waner and Dr. Berenstein founded the Vascular Birthmark Institute and pioneered treatments and equipment that is now used all over the world. They are the best in the field, hence our travel across the country to see them.
I do like to include medical information about my procedures on the blog. Before my surgeries, I would Google and search for other people with similar circumstances. I would have loved to connect with others who have undergone similar treatments, but never had any luck. Maybe this will help someone doing the same! So just a quick break-down of the game-plan because it’s a pretty complex process (that will be *hopefully* completed by this time next year!)
- 2-3 more rounds of sclerotherapy with Dr. Berenstein, using Bleomycin injections into the remaining malformation.
- Laser treatments with Dr. Waner to attack surface veins and reduce the visible purple coloring.
- “Smoothing” the left side to decrease bulkiness and fill in depressions.
- Creating a more symmetrical smile! Medical technology is amazing. Dr. Waner and Dr. O use a procedure to re-animate the nerve and muscle function around the left side of my mouth to increase it’s movement. They will use a sensory nerve, artery and muscle from the area around my Achilles tendon, and implant it like an “extension cord” to create symmetry.
I have to do some of my own research to see how using the tissue from my leg will affect my running. Another option is using a cadaver. Yes, creepy. Don’t think about it too hard, that’s what I tell myself ;)
Last week I had the first Bleomycin treatment. Cross one procedure off of the list!
I *politely* requested he use the underneath of my elbow (<— does that body part have a name? I’ve never had to refer to the “underside of my elbow” before..)
I woke up feeling alright. No major pain or nausea, and I was able to go home later that night after recovering in the pediatric unit. A Sex & the City marathon was playing (how appropriate!) and my parents brought me a peanut butter smoothie to fill my empty belly.
I just have to say a public THANK YOU to my amazing supportive parents. Two of the most caring and generous people, I am blessed to call Mom & Dad. I love you so much :)
During our week in the city, we balanced Healthy Choices and Happy Choices. The latter would be splurges on ice cream, cocktails, and special dinners because…..well, because WE CAN.
My parents and I are all glad to be home and return to normal, healthy home-cooking. One saving grace was staying at an apartment with a kitchen. We didn’t have to rely on restaurants for ALL meals and snacks (although stocking a kitchen in Manhattan is still pretty damn pricey).
We packed a fruit and hummus picnic to take to the always-gorgeous Bryant Park:
We made pretty parfaits to fuel our walk through Central Park with yogurt, banana slices, apple chunks, and a crumbled Toasted Nuts & Cranberry Luna bar.
We made a Whole Foods stop for movie snacks, where I picked out some delicious “Cacao Blueberry Raison Coconut Almond” clusters. Should be pretty easy to recreate…every ingredient is in the title. :)
Can’t finish this New York recap without mentioning the 9/11 Memorial Museum. By Friday, I was feeling good enough to trek down to the newly-opened museum. It is located underground, directly below the sights of the twin towers. Several layers include actual architecture from the buildings, thrashed fire engines, video and audio clips, and thousands of pictures from the day that our nation will never forget.
And that concludes this New York trip. Tomorrow morning we reunite with LA Fitness. Can’t wait to get sweaty again :) I shall bring you many recipes and workouts soon!
I am recovering in our rented New York apartment now from my long day at the hospital yesterday. (You can read my pre-op post here) I’m still extremely tired, swollen, and weak. (I’ll have my mom proofread this to make sure I don’t make any ridiculous typos in my medicated state.)
Yesterday, my mom and I arrived at the hospital at 10am to meet with my surgeon, Dr. Waner of the Vascular Birthmark Institute, and go over the game plan. There was approximately 10% of the venous malformation left in the upper half of my cheek, that could not be extracted through an incision because it was dangerously close to my eye and nerves.
- The most prominent part of the surgery was the “hitch” that was put in place to bring up the left side of my lip by a few millimeters. The mass of the venous malformation put pressure on the bones on the left side of my face for 19 years, so that side was not symmetrical with my right. The “hitch” involved an incision next to my left eye, a hole drilled into the bone to guide a synthetic material to the corner of my mouth. An incision at my mouth attached this to a muscle, to pull up the corner.
- The doctor used a laser treatment to attack the remaining veins, as well as smooth out my scar line from my previous surgery. This caused some major swelling and will have to be repeated in the future.
- The surgery in July removed a large portion of muscle that was replaced with a fat graft. After the swelling from that surgery subsided, it was clear that a little too much fat was left by my upper lip, and this time the doctor removed this bulkiness through the inside of my mouth.
- Facial Nerve Monitoring ensured that I would not have the same nerve paralysis as last time; in July, the nerve branches were stretched so much that they were temporarily paralyzed and I had no left side facial movement for a few months. Thankfully, that is not the case this time, and my nerves can continue to gain their strength back as I regain my facial expressions.
- Unfortunately, I was intending to have my nose corrected in this surgery because it had been pushed over to the right side of my face from the pressure over the years as well. However, Dr. Waner’s main concern was to remove the malformation and extra tissue, and said the Rhinoplasty would have to be performed at a later time with the help of another specialist.
Now I rest at home. Because my eye is swollen shut, I mainly want to rest and sleep but I do have plenty to keep me busy when I get bored. Gilmore Girls, books, my goodies from Fernanda’s care package in my previous post, and yes that is coffee in my water bottle. Even though I’m on a soft-food diet for 10 days, the doctor didn’t say anything about restricting coffee! I’m hoping to get outside tomorrow and maybe even walk over to Central Park the day after that. Fresh air does the body good, I just need to have enough energy to get there and back.
Thank you for your concern and messages; I look forward to reading them :)