Sunday, June 22, 2014

Who Was that Masked Man?

It was me.

I'm going to tell you about it, even though my better judgment says not to.

In fact, the subject is listed as one of the top Ten subjects that make the official "Things No One Ever Said" list each year.

Such as,

"I love being tired."

"Happy New Year! I’m going to try to put on some weight this year. Particularly in my mid-section."

"I love the smell of wet dog."

I couldn’t tell at all - that is a really natural looking toupee."

and ,

Tell me again about your hernia operation.

In my case, the operation I'm writing about had nothing to do with a hernia, the one I'm speaking of was on my nose.  I seldom  mentioned my "nose job" to people because those I did tell about it couldn't resist suggesting I demand my money back.

However, it wasn't done for cosmetic purposes. 

When I was three years old, I slipped on the icy steps of Mercy Hospital after visiting my Dad, and crushed the bridge of my nose.  As I grew, the crushed bones did as well, obstructing more and more of my nasal breathing passages.

Dr. Newton D. Fischer
It reached critical mass, I suppose, about 1956 and I sought help from one of the Doctors at the University of North Carolina, where I was attending school at the time. Dr. Newton D. Fischer was his name, and I got the feeling that he had recently lost patience with students coming to him wanting "cosmetic nose jobs," which he didn't do.

"So, you don't like the looks of your God given nose, eh," he said.  And he went on from there telling me how vain and foolish I was, etc.....

When he finished, I simply said. "Yes. I wish my nose was better looking, but that's not why I'm here. I'm having difficulty breathing."

After examining me, he couldn't have been more apologetic. As it turned out, he arranged for me to have a combination nasal passage correction and bridge re-construction by the leading such surgeon in the country.  Dr. Maurice Cottle was his name and he had been Dr. Fischer's teacher in medical school.

The operation normally would have cost thousands of dollars, but Dr. Fischer arranged for me to have it done for "whatever my parents could afford."

Which was $300.
Dr. Maurice M. Cottle

I flew to Chicago for the proceedure and returned to Chapel Hill afterward where Dr. Fischer took care of my post surgery needs which consisted mainly of changing the "mask" on my face which had to remain in place for a month.

The reason was to hold my new "bridge" long enough  for it to "attach" itself to my facial bones. Dr. Cottle had carved it from a bone he had shaved from my hip. Wearing a mask for that many weeks wasn't fun, but being able to breathe through my nose was well worth it.

I frightened the daylights out of a number of Chapel Hill and Charlotte merchants during those 30 days of my one man Halloween show.
There was a dry cleaner on Pecan Avenue who had his back to me when I walked in the store and almost ran out the back door when he turned and saw me and my mask. (Actually he told me there was no back door...but said he almost made one.)

The mask itself was simply medical tape that covered my face from the hairline to the tip of my "new" nose.

Dr. Fisher has passed on now but rarely have many days gone by since 1956 when I didn't think of how kind and generous that man was to me and how fortunate I was to have walked into his office that day.

As most of you know, I missed our 60th reunion because of a conflict with some surgery that came up. In conversation with the Doctor (Alain Drooz) beforehand, I detected a Southern accent and learned that he had done his medical studies at UNC.  Of course, he's much younger than me...Hell so is the Pope...but I asked him what the town was like now, etc. 
And, not expecting a positive reply, I couldn't resist asking if he had ever known a Dr. Fischer when he was at UNC.

"Dr. Newton Fischer?" he replied. "He was my faculty advisor."

I knew then my upcoming surgery was going to be successful.