"I went on holiday and came back with a new face"
Ruth Denzey combined cosmetic surgery with a South African Safari. Here Ruth, a special needs teacher from Folkestone, Kent, shares her face lift diary...
September 23 2002
It’s my 48th birthday and it really hit me that I don’t like what I see in the mirror. Time seems suddenly to have caught up with me. I’ve lost a stone since my divorce four years ago, I go the gym and eat healthily. I dress as though I’m in my 30s and thanks to my kids, Caroline*, 16, and James*, 12, I’m surrounded by pop music all day. My face just doesn’t seem to match my body or my lifestyle.
I’ve decided to take action! My tired-looking face is affecting my confidence. I’m unwillingly single and intitial impressions count when you meet new people. I’d like to be in love, but don’t think I’ll attract the right man for me looking like this. I’ve done some internet research and contacted a London cosmetic surgery clinic. My appointment’s next month.
I told the surgeon at the clinic I wanted just my eyes done, to lift the upper lids and tighten the bottom ones. The medical term is blepharoplasty. He recommended a face lift too. I smoke and my nose to mouth lines are fairly deep. I was shocked at the £5,500 price tag. I’m also worried because I would spend only one night in hospital and I have no one at home to help me after the surgery. I’m starting to feel wobbly about the whole idea...
At last, the answer to my problems! I saw a TV documentary about a company called Surgeon and Safari who are based in Johannesburg, South Africa. For the same price the London clinic are charging, I can have surgery and a holiday too. I’d be closely monitored and have time to recover before facing the world. I rang Surgeon and Safari and was impressed. Their surgeons fly to the UK for consultations, but they know the clinic I visited before and, after seeing a photo, have decided to follow the original recommendations. I’m really excited.
I’ve taken a £6,000 loan against my house and booked my surgery for half term when the children will be at their father’s. They understand how important this is to me, but I have got pangs of guilt about the fact I’ll be putting myself under a potentially lethal anaesthetic for the sake of vanity.
Wednesday February 19
I’m in South Africa. After an exhausting flight, I was met by a chauffeur-driven limo and driven to my guest lodge. At the moment it feels like I’m on holiday and I’m trying not the think too hard about meeting my surgeon tomorrow.
Thursday February 20
I met surgeon Chris Snijman at the clinic. He took some photographs and warned me smokers often bleed more and take longer to heal. He told me I could change my mind at any time and checked I knew the risks of a general anaesthetic. That bit made me anxious, but I was cool calm and collected when I made the decision to do this and pulling out now would be foolish.
Friday February 21
Today was surgery day! I was admitted into a private room at the clinic and Chris and the anaesthetist visited to make sure I was OK. I was actually suprisingly calm! I was given a sleeping pill and, as I was being wheeled to the theatre, I felt groggy. The next thing I knew, six hours had passed and I was in my room. I had pads over my eyes and a bandage over my ears which was weird, but I wasn’t in pain. My only thought was: ‘Thank goodness that’s over!’
Saturday February 22
Chris took the pads off my eyes. He said the surgery had gone well but had lasted for six hours instead of four because my eyelids bled a lot. My eyes don’t feel sore at all and I’ve even been reading. I went to the loo, but avoided the mirror. I want to give my face time to settle down in case it upsets me!
Sunday February 23
I was taken back to the guest lodge today and feel much better than I expected. The skin in front of my ears is numb, but the worst thing is trying to get comfortable to sleep. I usually lie on my side, but that hurts as I have stitiches and staples behind my ears as well as in front. I keep telling myself it will be worth it!
Monday February 24
I looked in the mirror today. I expected to have a couple of black eyes, but there is no bruising at all. My cheekbones have disappeared under the swelling, but I’m cautiously pleased. I went out for an Italian meal with other Surgeon and Safari guests and while I didn’t look anyone directly in the eye, I don’t think I put them off their supper!
Tuesday February 25
Chris removed the stitches from around my eyes and a few from in front of my ears. A couple were tight and hurt enough to make my eyes water. I’m very pleased with my eyes. Before people thought I was tired when I wasn’t. Now I look wide-awake.
Wednesday February 26
I took myself shopping to a local mall, but my head felt as though it was going to explode and I had visions of the rest of my stitches and staples bursting. I had a proper look at my face for the first time. I’m concerned I don’t look like me. In fact, I look like my auntie Alice! When you’re used to seeing the same reflection day in day out, it’s a shock to see something different.
Thursday February 27
I felt a bit down today, stuck in limbo between the surgery and feeling 100 per cent better. I read and spoke to Caroline on the phone. Over the years, I’ve conditioned myself not to miss the children too much and I keep telling myself I deserve a holiday!
Friday February 28
I took a day trip to Soweto, about 15 minutes drive from the lodge and walked around one of the shanty towns. The contrast between the poverty and me having paid thousands of pounds for surgery makes me uncomfortable. I’m more positive about my face though and am slowly getting used to the ‘new, improved me’.
Saturday March 1
I arrived at Entabeni, a private game reserve two hours from Johannesburg. My lodge is set over a lake and hippos wallow underneath the walkways. The trees are filled with baboons. I went on a game drive with a guide, Jackie, and tracker, Themba. Seeing giraffe and buffalo in the wild took my mind off my face! It’s still numb, but I wore sunglasses and, with my hair brushed forward, my staples aren’t visible.
Sunday March 2
We saw lions and had breakfast, complete with starched table linen and glasses, by a rock pool. This place is just stunning. I’m determined to come back – hopefully with a gorgeous man by my side! I feel very well rested and I’m convinced it’s because I’m not at home trying to recover while struggling with the chaos of everyday life. The Sundowner cocktails at dusk might have something to do with it!
Monday March 3
I arrived back in Johannesburg and had my stiches and staples taken out. I had been worried about the staples, but they were the least painful of all. Chris said he was thrilled with the results and asked me to send him pictures when the swelling has totally gone. I headed out to the airport and caught my flight home. I can’t wait to hear what my friends think!
Thursday March 13
I’ve been back 10 days and I’m very happy with how everything went. Friends say I look like me, only better. The surgery has given my confidence such a boost. At last my face matches the rest of me!
As told to Sarah Edwards
* Childrens’ names have been changed