A Change for the Better
Holly Ryan of Millville used to hate getting her picture taken. The 31-year-old was born with a cleft lip and it caused her nose to be crooked and twisted on the inside. It prevented her from breathing through her left nostril. "I was always super stuffed up and had headaches," Holly recalls, "and I would have great anxiety because I couldn’t breathe."
As a child, she had surgery to correct her cleft lip, but her nose remained crooked and her left nostril was still clogged. Along with the physical impairment, Holly's emotional well-being took a toll as well. She tended to shy away from conversations because she felt people were staring at her nose. "I was so insecure," Holly says. "Insecurity was a major thing in my life."
Finally, in 2015, Holly had had enough. Upon her primary doctor's recommendation, she went to see William Recupero, DO, a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon that practices at Tri-County Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery in Milford. Dr. Recupero is specially trained in reconstructive and aesthetic surgery of the face. Many of his procedures, including rhinoplasty, not only improve function and correct deformities, but can enhance facial structure as well.
“Holly didn’t know she could breathe better with surgery,” Dr. Recupero says. “She had a congenital condition and she couldn’t breathe. She didn’t know she could breathe through her left nostril because it had been that way all her life. Her breathing and improving her airway were paramount. I never sacrifice overall function for changes in appearance.”
A cleft lip is formed as the face develops. Two halves of the face come together, and if those two halves don’t meet properly, it affects the lip and nose. The nostril can be small, the septum can be crooked, and it can obstruct the airway, as was the case with Holly. Cartilage inside the nose does not form correctly, and as a result the nose is asymmetrical and can look crooked.
Many patients with a cleft lip have their lip surgically repaired as a child, however related problems with the nose cannot be fixed until adulthood, once bone and cartilage growth have stopped.
Dr. Recupero thoroughly reviewed the options available to Holly before deciding upon a surgery called rhinoplasty -- a surgery that reconstructs and reshapes the nose. The surgery lasts between two to three hours, and the patient can go home that same day. There are no visible incisions, as nearly all the incisions are made inside the nose, with the exception of a small incision at the base of the nose which is imperceptible.
"Dr. Recupero explained everything in such a way that I was instantly comfortable with it," Holly says. "I didn't even feel worried."
Holly had her rhinoplasty surgery on August 25, 2015. Following surgery, the first thing Holly noticed when she woke up was her ability to fully breathe. "I couldn’t believe it!" she says with a laugh.
Holly had swelling, which was to be expected, but she felt no pain. While bruising can occur from this type of surgery, Holly didn't face this because she followed the direction Dr. Recupero gave her to prevent it from happening. The cast on her nose came off after one week, and within two weeks she was able to resume a normal, active lifestyle.
“That is pretty typical,” says Dr. Recupero. “Swelling and bruising is part of any surgery. It takes about two weeks for most of the swelling to go away. Any residual swelling is typically unnoticeable. The nose will continue to heal for an entire year and the patient will continue to see improvement during that year.”
Dr. Recupero keeps in close contact with his patients after surgery, giving them direct access to him to call any time with questions or concerns. He checks in with the patient later in the day following surgery, and frequently thereafter until he – and the patient – are comfortable with the progress of their recovery.
“Once a patient invests in me, I develop a relationship with them. It’s not just about an operation and follow-up. It’s a lifelong relationship I have with them,” says Dr. Recupero. “My job is to help them get the most out of their investment.”
Looking back, Holly remembers the entire experience at Milford Regional went without a hitch. "It was one of the easiest processes I've ever had to deal with," she says. And her confidence in Dr. Recupero was more than affirmed by the final results. "He is very professional, particular, and knows what he is doing," she emphasizes.
Holly knows the date of her surgery as well as others know their birthday, because, in a way, her life started anew that day. In fact, she calls it her "special day."
"The surgery was definitely a change for the better," she says happily. "I feel like a new person."