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Double eyebrows and a navel that says hello.

For a year and a half, I was sleeping sitting up because of the pain in my left shoulder, from a condition called calcific tendinitis. The pain was aggravated whenever I lay down.

Looking down at my bulging tummy, I wanted to have the fat removed by my husband's plastic-surgeon friend and medical-school classmate, Dr. Jorge 'George' Neri. He recommended lipectomy, which he said was better than liposuction, a procedure akin to a vacuum cleaner extracting the fat mixed with blood vessels. George said that in lipectomy, he'd be able to see what he was removing and that would simply be excess fat. So I got the idea of having it done while I was under anesthesia to get rid of my calcific tendinitis. That would be a bargain, I thought, two surgeries for one anesthesia!

My eyebrows would get shorter by half from sweating after nine holes of golf or any strenuous exercise. I guess I over-plucked them when I was younger (they had been quite bushy). Thus, I also wanted my eyebrows tattooed, but dreaded the pain. Then I hit on the idea of having it done in the hospital's Recovery Room, while I was still groggy from the effects of the anesthesia. That would be like having three procedures for one anesthesia. Wow, what a bargain!

Finally, I agreed that Dr. Tony Rivera and his States-side associate, Dr. Ramon Gustilo, could go ahead and scrape off the calcium deposits from my shoulder. George would stand by in the operating room (OR), to take over right afterwards. Of course my husband Beck, himself a surgeon, albeit an OB-Gyne specialist, was in the OR, too.

For vanity's sake

Well, I didn't know that I would have to be given further anesthesia, a spinal one, for the lipectomy! Had I known, I wouldn't have agreed to undergoing this procedure for my vanity's sake. I have never had spinal anesthesia, even when delivering my four babies, spaced two to three years apart, for they were all normal deliveries.

Beck told me afterwards that he had mildly panicked when George was about to close up and my navel was nowhere to be seen. 'George, where's Linda's umbilicus?'

'Oh, it's underneath, susungkitin ko na. (Let me fish it out).'

George had 'sectioned off' my navel before he incised my tummy at the bikini line, lifted the skin and scraped off the fat. Then he cut off the excess skin, pulled it downward and sutured it back. He told me afterwards that he had removed five pounds of fat. Later, I saw the effect, for I had gone from a size 10 to a size 8 dress again. Oh joy!

Eyebrow tattoo

There was a commotion in the recovery room when my anesthesiologist called out to the staff and the nurses, 'Come on over! Look, tattoo!' Tattooing eyebrows was a novel thing in the '80s and '90s. My friend Marian had sent over a tattoo artist to work on me. I had given the money to my husband to pay the tattoo lady, whom I never met, even after it was done.

On my first day home, when I looked down as I was sitting in the loo, I was surprised to see an old, familiar part of my anatomy that had been obstructed from my view because of my big tummy. 'Oh, hello!' I said, 'Nice to see you again.'

Old, familiar friend

When I bathed, I noticed that my navel, which had always been embedded flat and even, was kind of askew. The part on the right side had slightly risen, looking as though it was saying hello!

I complained to George when I went to his office for my check up. He answered, 'Don't worry, I can revise.'

'What? I don't think it would be quite like revising an essay! I would have to go under the knife again! No, thank you. I'll live with my hello-ing navel. Anyway, I never wear a bikini, so my secret is safe.'

Looking surreal

Now that I'm old, it goes without saying that my facial skin, as everything else, has sagged. So as not to have a lugubrious look, I lift my eyebrows when I draw them. The tattoo has faded, of course, but it can still be seen. The result is double eyebrows-a higher one above the lower, tattooed one.

A quote from Pete Burns comes to mind: 'It's not a matter of vanity; it's a matter of sanity. I'll never look forever young, but I'll look as best as possibly can; I'll look surreal.'
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jun 11, 2017
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