Pauline Cook, 55, had a lower facelift with Mr Manu Sood at Spire Hartswood Hospital, spurred on by dramatic weight loss and a supportive network. Two weeks after her operation, she tells her story…

“A few years ago, I lost four stone in weight, which was fantastic. I was exercising, so everywhere became toned, apart from the fact I was left with a big, flabby, turkey-looking double chin, which I hated. But there’s nothing you can do about that with exercise alone. 

When I was bigger, although I had a double chin, it wasn’t flappy; it didn’t move. After the weight loss, it was all lined and creased and I’d move my head and feel it moving as well. My friends would say, we don’t notice it, it’s part of you, but I knew it; I could feel it. For me, it was a bugbear and I knew I’d feel so much better without having that flap of skin under my chin. I didn’t ever want photos taken. If I had to have one taken, I’d have to think about best way to stand, with my head up or down… then I’d look at the photo afterwards and think oh, look at that! I hated it. Hated looking at it. 

Shortly afterwards, I met Barry, who is now my husband. He was very supportive. I told him I couldn’t stand it and would love to do something about it… and he said, why don’t you? I thought, you know what, I’ve got somebody who’s supporting me, who’s going to be there with me, and I haven’t got to think about it on my own. We started to look into it. 

I looked on the Spire Hartswood website, and by chance there was an open evening coming up with Mr Sood. We came along to the open evening and chatted with him, then booked an individual consultation. I told him what I was looking to do, and he said it could be done. I originally wanted my neck really pulled back tightly, as I thought that would take away the flap of skin, but he told me that would cut the blood supply. He managed my expectations and explained that he could do a lower facelift, by taking it up behind the ears and in front of the ears, to get that flap of skin gone. 

Mr Sood advised me to go away, do a bit more research, look at other people, and only go back to him if I felt that this is where I wanted it to be. So that’s what I did. I looked into it again, had another look round at other websites and had some private consultations, but I wasn’t very happy with them: I was happy with Mr Sood and wanted to stick with him. I went back to see him a couple of months later and booked in. 

Mr Sood obviously knows what he’s doing: his background is quite extensive but the most important thing, for me, was his manner and obvious knowledge of cosmetic surgery. He was very supportive of what I wanted done. He was also very realistic as to what I could expect it to look like. He wasn’t “hard sell” at all. He was so thoughtful during the consultations that I felt very comfortable with him and very confident that he was going to give me what I wanted. He explained the risks, but he wasn’t negative at all. He was always positive. He warned me I would get scarring but that it would fade in time and with my hair down, people wouldn’t see it. Eventually, he said, the scar will calm down and you can put your hair up and people won’t notice. He was always very positive about it.

“As the operation drew closer, I became quite anxious, and I was panicking in the 4-5 weeks leading up to the surgery. You worry that you won’t get what you want and that you won’t look like you expect to. I had butterflies and I even considered cancelling as, in the contract, it says that you can get your deposit back up to a certain point. Barry reminded me that I wanted it done, and that I’d feel so much better afterwards. That’s all I needed; somebody to say no. If I’d cancelled it, I’d have been very disappointed in myself, because I wanted it done. And after that date had gone, I felt much calmer.

“I was here at 7.30am on the day of the operation. I was quite anxious again but, because the hospital is so good, it doesn’t feel like you’re walking into a hospital at all. It’s almost like coming into a hotel; they look after you so well. They took us upstairs and settled me in. There was a lot of activity going on, nurses coming in, blood pressure being taken, the anaesthetist introducing himself, and then Mr Sood came in, explained the procedure again and marked my face. I went down to theatre about 10.30 and this calm descended on me. I sat there, all gowned up, thinking righty-oh, that’s it now! 

The operation took about four and a half hours, as we expected. I was quite groggy when I came back up to my room at about 5.30pm, following a spell in Recovery, but the nurses were very good looking after me; every hour, someone came in to check on me.  The anaesthetist came in to check on me also and said that everything had gone to plan and, shortly afterwards, Mr Sood came up to say he was very pleased with how the operation had gone and that he had managed to remove more skin than he thought.  

The following morning the bandages came off and I could see what had happened… and I was delighted! Even though there was a lot of swelling and redness, I wasn’t a bit concerned as I had been prepared for that. I could see that the flabby chin had gone. It was just great. 

The staff at the hospital were great; they were really lovely, very professional and friendly. They were very helpful and supportive of what I’d had done. As a person having a facelift, I assumed people would think, look at her, who does she think she is! But no-one here ever made me feel like that. Nobody. 

They washed my hair for me as it was a bit messy following the operation and we had to take care not to get the stitches too wet. I had a shower and then I was told I could go home. I felt a bit groggy and sore but it wasn’t painful; I can honestly say none of it has been painful. Sore, achey, but not pain. It was tight behind my ears in the weeks afterwards and when I moved in certain directions it felt like something pulling but that’s not pain, it’s just discomfort. The bruising, when it came out, could be a bit tender, but I can’t say it was painful at all. I was given paracetamol and Ibuprofen to take home but I took them less regularly every day. 

I looked like a little chipmunk at first. My cheeks were quite swollen but fortunately, I had no bruising there; the bruising was mostly confined to behind and under my ears and round the back of my neck. The great thing was that I could clearly see the swelling going down each day. Each day I’d wake up and look in the mirror and think ooh yes, a bit more! Today I can see cheekbones, today I can feel my jawbone and chin… A week later, I got up, looked in the mirror, and it had gone down quite markedly overnight – there was a big difference. It was enough that after that first week, I felt confident enough to go out for a walk (albeit with a supportive head mask on and a jacket with the hood up!).  

I saw Mr Sood when the stitches came out a week later and he was delighted with the results. I told him that my cheeks were quite numb and he explained that I could get some numbness for a few months. It feels like you’ve been to the dentist and it’s wearing off… every now and then it tingles. Mr Sood said that we need to give it about six months for the scarring to settle down and the numbness to wear off. I have more follow-up appointments to check on my progress before he discharges me.

I’ve recovered really well because I’ve done exactly what I’m supposed to do after the procedure. I have to wear a supportive head mask, which I joke makes me look like Hannibal Lecter; sleep sitting up; and have complete rest. Because I did all those things, everything is healing like it should. Mr Sood told me that’s the thing he can’t impress enough upon his patients to do. Mr Sood also has a Practice Nurse that I’ve been in contact with, who has given me lots of advice about what – and what not – to do. She has also been very helpful and always available.

I can’t exercise for six weeks and I can’t go in the sun without high sun block. I can’t do things like ironing or vacuuming as you shouldn’t bend forward or lean over. But if you follow the recovery dos and don’ts properly, it cuts the time frame of your recovery right down. I only had two weeks off work.

I still have a little way to go before I have complete recovery, but I feel great; I feel so much better now. I’m so glad that I did it. I feel 100% more confident in myself. I keep touching my neck and there’s nothing there! I’m raring to do things. We’re going away to Morocco this autumn, so I won’t mind those photos now. 

To anyone that’s thinking about it, I’d say do it. Sure, it’s a big step, a big decision, and it might be nerve-wracking, but the long-term result is fantastic. If it’s going to make you happy, if you know it’s going to make you feel a whole lot better about yourself, it’s worth the investment. Do it!”

The consultant's view, by Plastic, Reconstructive and Hand Surgeon, Mr Manu Sood

“Deciding to undergo a cosmetic procedure can be quite a daunting task.  It is very important for a patient to feel comfortable with the surgeon they have chosen to undertake the procedure for them.  Both during initial consultation and afterwards, patients must feel that they have been given adequate information with regard to the procedure, realistic expectations and potential complications.  They must have access to written material of a high standard, a good quality website and an experienced nurse who can advise them about the normal post-operative care and answer any questions.  

The entire process of undergoing a cosmetic operation is a protracted one.  It does not simply consist of the operation itself but involves both the pre-operative planning in consultation with the patient and proper post-operative care. 

The best results are obtained when the surgeon listens carefully to the problems that the patient wishes to correct and gives ample time for questions and clarifications during the consultation and in the pre-operative period. Mrs Cook’s experience is an example of what patients can expect from me and my staff if they choose to have surgery under my care.”