A few months after Katrina, Sheila and her family were still living the life of evacuees with relatives in the northern part of Louisiana. Like many other people, Sheila felt depressed. She felt something had to give. “I couldn’t control Katrina,” she said, “but I could control this.” She decided to get serious about breast reduction.
The long process that led Sheila to fly in to Los Angeles for breast reduction started when Sheila was young. “By fifth grade, I was a size C,” she related, “and by junior high, I was a full DD. And because I had a small frame and weighed just over 100 pounds, I was ‘all boob,'” she laughed.
Contrary to the experience of others, psychological issues weren’t first and foremost for Sheila. “I come from a very practical family,” she said. “My mom is large-breasted too. Her attitude was something like, ‘This is the way it is, get a good bra and move on,'” Sheila said. “I learned to handle it.” In fact, Sheila pointed out that there were some positives for her in her experience as a girl. “I found the boys were pretty much focused on one aspect of me, so I learned to be practical about them as well.”
Harder to put up with for Sheila were the outward problems that come with having large breasts. Reaching adulthood, she found she had frequent back and neck pain. She visited a chiropractor often and she had to limit physical activities to those that were comfortable for her. And as a professional Web designer, she found it difficult to buy business clothes that fit and didn’t look “frumpy.”
Sheila saw Dr. Stevens on television several years ago. He talked about breast reduction surgery, which was the first time she had heard about it. She happened to see him interviewed on another program a few months later, and she began researching the procedure. She started talking with local doctors including her gynecologist and another plastic surgeon. Her gynecologist hadn’t heard of breast reduction and the local surgeon she consulted told her insurance wouldn’t cover it.
Sheila started thinking about traveling to Los Angeles for breast reduction. Six months after Hurricane Katrina, she started a conversation with Charlie Sheridan at Marina Plastic Surgery, a dialogue that would end up taking almost six more months. Charlie found that Sheila’s insurance would indeed cover the procedure for her. In June of 2006, Sheila and her husband flew to Southern California.
“The surgery itself was much less difficult than I thought it would be,” Sheila said. She spent her first night at the Serenity Center, which was a great choice, she noted. “Even though we were thoroughly educated by Dr. Stevens and his staff, we were still a little apprehensive about recovery. Staying at the Serenity Center gave both me and my husband peace of mind. The staff was attentive, professional, and pleasant.” Sheila said she had a little nausea that first night, and the nurses at the center were very responsive.
Sheila said she actually had little down time. She spent just two days in bed, then she and her husband went out to see the sights of Southern California. “I took pain medication for about four days, but no one was going to keep me from sightseeing. All in all I had a very good experience.”
Now that several months have passed since her surgery, Sheila is delighted with the changes. “Next month I’m running in the Crescent City Classic 10K in New Orleans. It’s my first race and I’m excited!” She also reports she has been excited to shop for clothes for the first time in a long while. “Now I can wear blazers and sweaters, you know, more current clothes. I’m less focused on the way I look, and I feel more confident in business meetings with my customers.”
Interestingly, Sheila related that she isn’t the only one to seek plastic surgery after Hurricane Katrina. Lots of people in the New Orleans area have been down and depressed for some time, she said. She learned she wasn’t alone in wanting to make changes in her appearance. “It helps you have a new beginning, a whole new outlook,” Sheila said.
If women have the opportunity to work with Dr. Stevens, they’ll be in good hands, according to Sheila. “He’s very sensitive; and he seemed to know just what size I should be so I wouldn’t look too big nor so small that I would seem like a different person. He was just fantastic, and his work is remarkable.”
To footnote Sheila’s experience, here’s an excerpt from a letter she wrote to Dr. Stevens after returning home:
I have some friends who say “it was so brave of you just to fly out to California and trust this doctor site unseen.” My response is that while I had not visited your office prior to the procedure, I certainly did my research on who was the best surgeon for this most important (and, as it turns out, life changing) surgery. In fact, I had been researching breast reductions for at least three years, and your name kept coming up — deservedly so.
Via your web site, your director, Charlie Sheridan, was a tremendous help with gathering information and making a decision. And once the decision was made, your entire staff was helpful in making sure all the pieces fell into place and the experience was a smooth one. They succeeded.
Too, I must add that while you forewarned me to expect an emotional roller coaster for the first week after surgery, I never experienced that. I have been ecstatic about the surgery from day one. The breast reduction was the best decision I have ever made and only sorry that I could not have done it sooner. It has been life changing for me….. new body image, new self-confidence, and I can hardly wait to start jogging! Living in the New Orleans area since the storm Katrina has been difficult at best. Your generosity and expert care gave me a new attitude and certainly a new lease on life.
For other women who may be wondering whether breast reduction surgery is something they should pursue, Shelia has the following advice. “You don’t need to go through a hurricane to create a new beginning for yourself. If you’re large-breasted and unhappy about it, the procedure can make such an impact on your life. There’s just no reason to wait.”