I recently decided to get quadruple blepharoplasty, which means I'll get the fat sucked out from under both eyes and have some skin and fat removed from the crease of both eyelids. Those fat pockets have been giving me angst for years—I feel like they make me look tired and older—and I want them gone! My upper eyelids weren't really a problem, but I have noticed some sagging there and I figure this will keep them looking good for another 10 years or so. I chose to have the procedure done by aesthetic plastic surgeon Paul Lorenc, M.D., who's been practicing in New York City for more than 20 years and who's very well known and respected. During my initial consultation, I felt so comfortable with him and his staff. I didn't have one iota of doubt about his—or their—ability to take care of me.
The main "hump" in deciding to get the procedure was having surgery, which I've never done, and undergoing anesthesia. Also, I admit I did have some concern about becoming one of "those" women, who've had work done and altered their appearance. I hate seeing all those scary facelifts in Hollywood—and on the Upper East Side in New York City—but my fat bags really bothered me. I finally realized, why put up with it when I can do something about it? I kept a diary of my experience—from a few days before to a few weeks after—and snapped some photos of my progress. Take a peek:
Four days before the surgery: I have to go see a medical photographer who will take shots of my eyes and face (for those photos you often see on doctors' websites). I have to take off all my makeup and when I see the images several days later, it's not pretty. You can see the before shot here.
Three days pre-surgery: I see my primary care physician for a physical and blood workup so they can spot any potential health issues that could pose problems during the procedure. I get a clean bill of health (except for a high cholesterol reading!) and am cleared for surgery. I create a living will online—just in case.... (I've been meaning to do that anyway and now seems like a good time.)
The day before surgery: I'm very nervous. I meet with Dr. Lorenc, who explains how the surgery will go. I tell him again that I don't want to come out of this looking different...just better. He assures me that he's not going to give me that surprised look that so many women have after eye surgery. Dr. Lorenc is very direct yet reassuring, which I find comforting. He doesn't sugarcoat anything or over-promise. He seems to take a conservative approach, which I like. I feel better after talking with him and Lorraine Russo, who's the executive director of the practice. Tonight I get a call from anesthesiologist Tim Vanderslice, M.D., who works with Dr. Lorenc. He wants to see if I have any questions and to make sure I take the anti-nausea medication I was given (to counteract potential side effects of the anesthesia). It's the anesthesia that worries me the most. My procedure only requires a very light sedative, often referred to as "Twilight" or conscious sedation. It's not as deep as general anesthesia and has fewer risks as a result (no anesthesia is 100 percent risk free, though). You wake up from it immediately after the procedure and it clears your system quickly. I've had it for an endoscopy, which only lasted a few minutes. This procedure will take an hour.
The big day! It's Friday morning. I sleep surprisingly well and feel more excited than nervous by the time I get to the doctor's office. Dr. Lorenc has a state-of-the-art, fully accredited operating room in his offices where he can perform most procedures. I have to admit, I like the fact that I don't have to go to a hospital. It's much more relaxing to be here and I feel safe. (If I were having a more invasive procedure, I might opt for a hospital.) Lorraine talks to me for a while when I first arrive, and then I speak with Dr. Vanderslice in person, who asks more questions about my health and does so much to relieve my anxiety about the anesthesia. Tall and very fit with fun, sleek eyeglasses, he just looks capable, which helps calm me down as well.
Pretty soon I'm on the table. Dr. Vanderslice inserts a needle for the sedation (hate that part!) and Dr. Lorenc asks me to close and open my eyes a few times. He marks the skin on my eyelids where he'll trim. The anesthesia begins and we start chatting about restaurants in my neighborhood. The next thing I know I'm waking up and being moved to a chair. I sit for a while and then my friend Trisha comes to take me home. I can open my eyes a little but things are blurry since I'm not wearing my glasses.
Once I get home, I take a pain pill—the only one I'll take during my recovery—and go to bed for a few hours. When I wake up I lie there and answer phone calls from family and friends. There's no pain and soon I get up and move to the living room. I start icing my eyes with cold compresses every 20 to 30 minutes or so to reduce swelling (this continues all weekend). By the time Trisha comes back to check on me and bring me dinner Friday evening, I'm watching television and feeling surprisingly good. (Although I don't look so good. Check out this photo.)
The day after: Dr. Lorenc told me to take it easy all weekend, although he did encourage me to go out for a walk. It just happens to be the first really nice weekend this spring and everyone's outdoors. I put on my sunglasses to cover my eyes so I don't scare people, but I don't have my contacts in so I can't see much—it's a very blurry walk (note to self: Get prescription sunglasses). I'm still a little tired, probably from the anesthesia, and if I do too much, I get a little woozy. It's a good opportunity to just lie around on the couch and relax. I'm amazed that there's no pain, and I'm still icing regularly. I snap another shot to show my family how much my swelling and bruising went down in just one day.
Two days after: More of the same: A little less icing, a little more walking. Still no pain.
Three days after: It's Monday and I can't take being in my apartment a minute longer. I head to work wearing my glasses, which kind of cover the bruising along my lower lids, but I still have white bandages across the stitches on my upper lids. Nobody at work really says much—maybe they're afraid I got into a bar fight. I feel great.
Four days after: I get my stitches out today! There aren't any stitches inside my lower lid, where Dr. Lorenc removed the fat through tiny incisions. The upper stitches are somehow done inside the incision, so all he has to do is pull the string on one end and out they come—and that's when I feel like I'm going to pass out.
I'm not allowed to do heavy exercise for a few more days and nothing where my head is down for the first couple of weeks (no yoga). I do daily walks to stay active, but I'm missing my studio-cycling classes!
Five days after: I can't believe how much the bruising and swelling has decreased!
Ten days after: I have to attend a strategy meeting for a group I'm involved with and I was initially a little worried about how I'd look, but there's only a sliver of bruising and nobody notices a thing (at least, nobody says anything).
Two weeks after: There's no bruising and my eyes look great. There's no puffiness underneath and the scars in the crease of my eyelids get lighter every day (plus, they're well hidden). My upper lids are still a little numb; Dr. Lorenc says the sensation will return over time as they heal. My lower lids hurt if I pull on them, which I sometimes do in the morning if I forget and start rubbing my eyes.
A month later: I see girlfriends over Memorial Day and nobody notices that I look different, although they all say I look great. The same thing happens at a meeting: I get several compliments and I start to wonder if people are seeing a difference without knowing exactly what it is. It doesn't matter to me that nobody can tell what I've done (in a way, that's good). What matters is that I notice and I love not having those fat bags under my eyes anymore! I feel more confident and I actually don't mind getting my picture taken (I used to dread it because I hated how I looked).
Dr. Lorenc tells me it will take a few months before I'm completely healed and the swelling is 100 percent gone. That's when I'll see the "final" results. Even if it doesn't get any better than it is now, though, I'll still be ecstatic!