Mitch Testimonial - Dr. James Fernau - Pittsburgh, PA

Patient testimonial for Dr. James


My name is Mitchell West, and I'm 60 years old. I had two surgeries done. The first was a facelift, and that involved a number of procedures. The second was a fat transfer into my face. Well, I'm 60 years old, and I looked in the mirror. Sometimes what I see looking back at me looks more like my father than it does what I imagine myself to look like. I was aware that I had an aging face, and there were certain things I didn't like. One of them was that when I put a necktie on, I could see the skin hanging underneath my chin. The other thing was that when I looked at pictures of myself, I looked unhappy, and angry, and mean. That's not how I felt inside, but because of the loss of skin elasticity and just some drooping around my jowls, it gave me kind of an unpleasant sort of face. I came and asked Dr. Fernau for his opinion about fixing that.

I chose Dr. Fernau for a couple of reasons. The first of which is that I'm a physician myself. I'm not a plastic surgeon. I'm just an ER doctor, but I knew of Dr. Fernau's reputation. The other reason was that I've had some friends, again, also physicians, who had some work done in his office. They were really happy with the job they got. I figured that that all of the reference that I needed. I don't think it's changed my life too much, except that my wife seems a little more attracted to me than she did before, and my kids seem to like the fact that I don't look quite as old as I did.

In terms of my family's response to it, I have three kids. Two of my children are doctors and one is a business major. My mother, when she was younger, had some cosmetic surgery, so it was something that we were sort of used to in the family, but at first, my kids seemed a little bit surprised by my decision to do it. I think they thought it would change my appearance and that I wouldn't look like their father anymore. There was a little bit of why are you getting this surgery done. After I've healed up, all of my children have been really supportive. They haven't so much told me how great I look. What they told me was what a good job Dr. Fernau did on my face.

There's a lot of advice I could give somebody. I think the most important advice, though, is cosmetic surgery is a big deal. Plastic surgery on your face is a big deal. There's a lot of doctors in Pittsburgh and across the country that are doing facial cosmetic surgery that are not necessarily board-certified plastic surgeons. That doesn't mean they can't do an acceptable job, but knowing that somebody has trained and is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery is really important because to get that certification it means you have completed a residency in plastic surgery and you have passed your boards. There are physicians, even in Pittsburgh, that are doing surgery and are busy who are not boarded in plastic surgery.

The other thing has to do with looking at your reasons why you want the surgery. I think that has to do with having realistic expectations about what the surgery can do for you. I had a few very specific parts of my face that I didn't like, but overall I think I have a pretty positive self-image. I would've anticipated that I would've been happy with the surgery, and I am. I think there are other people that decide to have plastic surgery for maybe the wrong reasons. They do it to please a spouse. They do it to correct lack of self-esteem. I think in those cases, people need to seriously look at why they're getting the surgery, what their expectations are, and how competent the surgeon is.

The day of the surgery, it's interesting, to say the least. The surgery was done here in Dr. Fernau's office. That's a good thing because it actually saves money, as opposed to going into a hospital and paying the fees that you do for the operating room and for the anesthetist. He wrote me prescriptions prior to the surgery, and I brought those medications with me. They took me to a relaxing room with a massage chair in it. I took some sedative-type drugs, Valium and Versed. After those started to work, and was relaxed, and had a little bit of amnesia for what was going on, then they took me into his operating area. They gave more anesthetics there, but I don't recall any of that.

The surgery was... He did a lot of work on me. The surgery took him about 12 hours. I don't remember any of it. I didn't feel any of it. My only recollection was at the end of the day kind of starting to wake up and feeling groggy. They require that you have somebody here to take you home, and my wife did that. I have very little recollection of the ride home. I don't recall having any discomfort, and I had adequate drugs to take for pain over the next few days. I spent most of the time sleeping. My memories of the day of surgery were minimal, but more importantly, I had no recollection of any pain or any discomfort.

I arrived home about 8:00 or 9:00 on the evening of the surgery. I recall sitting up for a little while watching TV. I don't believe I ate anything. I don't remember being hungry. When I did go home, I had bandages around my entire face. I had some drains that had been inserted that were draining some bloody fluid that you don't want to to have collect underneath the skin. They weren't uncomfortable in the least. I slept soundly that night. I woke up the next morning. I think people need to be aware that this is a major procedure, and you are going to be black and blue the next morning, kind of look like you've been in a fight. That's what I looked like. Both of my eyes were discolored. I had a lot of bruising in my face and in my neck. All of that was expected. That's just part of what happens when you get a face lift.

The interesting thing, though, was, unlike other surgeries, there's no real pain from this because it's done very superficially. This is not like operating on a bone or operating in your abdominal cavity where there's a lot of post-op pain. In fact, because of the incisions on the face, most of my face was numb. I didn't feel anything at all. Gradually, over the last few months, that numbness just has resolved. Dr. Fernau said it would take between six months and a year. There's actually very little discomfort in the recovery period compared to the amount of discoloration that you have, but that resolved pretty much in two weeks. He said within three weeks I would be able to go back to work and nobody would notice, and in fact, that was exactly what happened.

Without a doubt, I would recommend Dr. Fernau to my friends and family. In fact, I already have. I haven't kept this a secret from my friends. I know some people are very hesitant to share that they've had cosmetic surgery. I'm not the least bit embarrassed about the fact that I had it, and I'm glad that Dr. Fernau did it, but it wouldn't be just him that I'm recommending. It's his staff and his office as well. That was one of the things that my friend who had a procedure here had told me was how nice everyone was. Sheila is the nurse, or I guess practice director of this practice, and she's just wonderful. She is as nice as can be. The women that work in the reception area, that work in his operating theater, were also really, really nice. So much so, to tell you the truth, that as the medication were rolling into me, I found it hard to resist telling all of them how pretty they were and how nice they were to me. It actually is true. They are, and that's part of the whole experience that makes coming here so fun and worthwhile.

I guess, in closing, there's a couple points I would like to make to somebody whose considering the surgery. The first of which, and I think I went into a fair amount of detail, is that it's very important that you pick a qualified plastic surgeon. I cannot tell you how many times I've heard stories of people that have gone to somebody who was not a board-certified plastic surgeon, and they had bad outcomes. The human face is very, very complex. A facelift is far more than making a couple of incisions and tightening the skin. It requires a very extensive amount of knowledge about the anatomy, and the structure, and the function of the face in order to get a result that looks natural and is cosmetically acceptable.

The other thing I feel it's important to stress is that people ought to consider why they want to get a face lift and not get really hung up on the idea that this is just a reflection of vanity or a reflection of this superficial emphasis that we place on physical appearance. The truth of the matter is our face is a different important feature. We get braces on our teeth if they're not straight. We get our hair cut as nicely as possible. We exercise. We try to live healthy.

Part of aging is that our face changes. Some people are very happy with the way their face ages. Other people are not, and they want to look the best that they can. I think that's probably a very valid reason to get the surgery. For me it's wasn't so much a matter of wanting to look better. I just wanted to look more refreshed. I wanted to look brighter. In my particular case, I didn't want to look so mean. I think having my face operated upon has really taken care of that to a great extent.