BYLINE: Sonja Isger Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
DATE: April 29, 1999
PUBLICATION: The Palm Beach Post
Mary hoisted weights with a trainer two or three days a week, and she was in the gym every day.
"I see nothing," he says. Shuffle, shuffle. "No change at all." More shuffling.
"I was a definite gym rat," she says. Which is why the 37-year-old says she "sort of surprised" herself when she headed for a plastic surgeon last April.
The surgeon, Dr. Fred Barr, wasn't a stranger - he had removed a couple of accident scars a while back. That made her less self-conscious as she stood naked from the waist down in his examining room, while Barr and a nurse took Magic Markers to her inner knees, thighs, hips and butt.
All that time in the gym had helped Mary - to a point.
"I had great definition in my arms," she says. But those disproportionately large upper legs just wouldn't go away. "They got harder, but they never got smaller."
So Mary decided to reshape her "stumps" by having the fat sucked right out of them.
"I remember my inner knees bothering me since I was 8 years old in a school uniform and I looked at the other girls with their stick legs," Mary says. "It's the kind of thing that if you're really honest with your girlfriends, you say, `Oh yeah, I'd like to have my boobs done, or liposuction.' But to go do it took another leap."
Now, in the operating room, Mary's thighs, bottom and knees are turned into a topographical map of purple markers to tell the doctor where to work. Mary is put under with a general anesthesia.
Barr makes incisions behind both knees, under both buttocks, along the inner-thigh panty line and on both hips. Then he inserts a "cannula," a hollow wand just a tad thicker than a pencil and several inches longer, under the skin.
He fills the area with a saline solution that numbs the area, constricts the blood vessels and loosens the fat. Then with a sort of sawing motion, the doctor uses the wand to suck out a thick yellow substance.
As the doctor works an area, he switches wands to make smaller, more precise passes.
Working the area from knee to hip can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hours.
The doctor finishes his work on Mary and sends her to the recovery room.
"Initially, I was so swollen I was like the Michelin tire man," Mary says. "I was incredibly stiff. I could hardly get up. The incisions aren't anything. It's just the swelling. But I just knew it was going to change." she says. "I spent three days in the hospital. The doctor insisted on one, but I was so happy there, and the food wasn't all that bad, I stayed for another two."
By day two, Mary can hit the shower. By the time she leaves the hospital the incisions are covered with mere BandAids: "They looked like a scratch from your finger nail."
The scars are tiny, but her legs are still swollen. She spends the next seven days in bed or on the couch, so achy and sore that she's reluctant to move. Even jeans are uncomfortable, so Mary opts for leggings day and night.
"After about two weeks I felt pretty much back to normal." Mary is an artist, so there was no pressure for her to work those first two weeks. But she figures if she did have to get up and go into an office, it would've taken at least two weeks to do it.
Up to that time, the swelling masked any immediate changes in her shape. But as the soreness ebbed so did the swelling.
She noticed the first real proof that something had changed in a store dressing room.
"I went over to Old Navy and I was already in a size smaller."
Mary, a lifelong size 10, slipped into size 8 denim. And her body shape kept changing."Up to three or four months, I just seemed to keep shrinking. Clothes just fit better."
The price of change: $4,500.
But Mary feels the cost is justified. "I was paying $125 a week in trainers," she said. "It's not a substitute for going to the gym. If nothing else, it makes you want to jump in your tights and go.
"And now I think a lot less about my shape and my figure than before. I just put on clothes and know they fit fine, I don't have to worry if they are flattering."
And her husband?
"In the beginning, he thought it was totally unnecessary and ridiculous. Now he's constantly teasing me about my $5,000 (rear end). I think he likes it. But I didn't do it for him. I did it for me."
Illustration: PHOTO (2 B&W)
Copyright 1999 Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.