Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday's Miracle Worker

I debated who to write about next, but can't turn away from acknowledging someone who came into my life when I was only a few weeks old, then just as quickly disappeared. We've never had a conversation, but I think about this man from time to time and wonder what my life would be like if our paths had never crossed.

Now I kinda hate to recognize another doctor because I think many of them are already way too arrogant, but let's face it .... they DO save lives, and they do things the rest of us just can't do. I've had 3 doctors in my life that, without them, I just can't imagine what my life would be like. So without further adieu ......

Meet Dr. Hans Wilhelmsen

(Dr. Wilhelmsen is the 2nd from the left)

What you may not know about me is that I was born with a cleft lip. My parents were devastated that their first child ...... a little girl with a big curly head of black hair ... also had a birth defect. You've probably seen pictures of kids with cleft lips and palates -- it's grotesque to say the least. Well guess what -- that was me when I was born.

Luckily, my parents took me straight to a dental plastic surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore where a young Dr. Wilhelmsen was just in the midst of creating a program for treatment of pediatric cleft lips and palates. Dr. Wilhelmsen operated on me numerous times to fix my face and try to make me look decent enough not to have to wear a bag over my head for the rest of my life.

When I was in grade school, some kids use to call me "fat lip" and it absolutely tore me up every single time. I was so sensitive about my big secret. I don't know if it's just the passage of time or the miracles of lipstick and gloss, but when I look in the mirror I just don't notice the scar anymore. It's not huge and disfiguring, but it's there.

But I don't mind that scar. Without Dr. Wilhelmsen's gifted hands and the Cleft Lip Program he founded, I may not have a scar -- I may have a monster-face instead. I'm so thankful for him and what he did for me. I've researched him on Google and found out that he went on to win numerous awards from the Governor, Congress, and his peers for excellence in his field of medicine, and for his program that has made a difference in so many lives. He's now retired from private practice, but still teaches at Hopkins and the University of Maryland. He's also been recognized for charitable contributions to various organizations.

Even though he's probably long forgotten me, I'll never forget what Dr. Wilhelmsen did for me and how he changed my life. Not only did he get rid of the cleft lip, but he hand-made my lips (and made them nice and full!) In fact, I've gotten numerous compliments on my lips over the years, and every time it happens it catches me off guard because I know their history. When I get one of those compliments, my first thought is of the miracle that Dr. Wilhelmsen performed -- they're not compliments for me, but for him. So in my head, I "forward" those compliments along to him and say a silent "thank you" to Dr. Wilhelmsen. Nature gave me horrific lips, but he fixed them and made them beautiful.

1 comment:

Sandi said...

Um...I've known you for almost 20 years and never knew you had a cleft lip. He did a fantastic job!