A Birthday to Remember

Organization: Service: Story Topics:
Surgical Care

Marquitta Graham never imagined that her birthday would be spent in an operating room. However, on March 10 of this year, the 53-year-old Lakewood resident underwent six hours of plastic surgery that closed the book on the most painful and difficult chapter of her life.

“I’m walking, healing and don’t wake up in pain,” says Marquitta. “I am returning to the full life I never thought I could live again.”

FACING ADVERSITY

When a 2011 traffic accident shattered her leg and virtually immobilized her right side, Marquitta embarked on a yearlong recovery that healed her leg but caused depression and weight gain.

“I spent a lot of time feeling angry and upset,” Marquitta recalls. “I didn’t know where my life was going and felt like I was losing myself.”

Determined not to let her injury dictate how she lives, Marquitta returned to work as a residential care assistant at the Veterans’ Home nine months later.

“Putting my energy elsewhere helped so much. It took me out of my tailspin,” she says. “Their needs were far greater than mine, so I just focused on our Vets.”

Helping others, while healing herself, proved to have a positive impact on her life. With the help of gastric bypass surgery, Marquitta lost more than 200 pounds. Yet after losing so much weight, she found she was left with loose skin and painful rashes.

“Every day, I’d come home crying, feeling sorry for myself,” she says. “I had to do something, so I started researching plastic surgeons.”

THE RIGHT FIT

The decision to undergo cosmetic or reconstructive surgery is deeply personal. At Community Medical Center Long Beach (CMCLB), patients receive nurturing and attentive care from a skilled, experienced care team – including surgeons, anesthesiologists and surgical nurses –  that consider confidentiality to be a top priority.

“Patient privacy is of utmost importance,” says Mary Beth Joiner, M.S.N., R.N., director, surgical services, Community Medical Center Long Beach. “We’re all extremely protective of our cosmetic surgery patients and we do whatever it takes to ensure that their privacy is maintained.”

After six unsatisfactory interviews with doctors, Marquitta met Josh Waltzman, M.D., plastic surgeon, Community Medical Center Long Beach, and connected with him instantly.

“As soon as we made eye contact, I felt his compassion,” says Marquitta.

Dr. Waltzman, who holds medical and business degrees from UC Irvine and was born at CMCLB, peppered Marquitta with questions. He took photos of her trouble spots, offered recommendations and wasted no time scheduling surgery. Less than six weeks later, he performed an abdominoplasty and panniculectomy to remove excess skin and tighten Marquitta’s abdominal muscles. He also performed a brachioplasty to remove skin and contour the arm.

“Plastic surgery is a very personal and private matter. Sometimes it’s medically necessary, sometimes it’s elective. We’re always here to listen and find the best way forward – together,” says Dr. Waltzman.

NEW WOMAN

Marquitta spent just 23 hours in the hospital before returning home. Her 24-year-old son, Marcus, an emergency medical technician who is attending college, spent his spring break shopping, cooking and checking on his mother’s sutures. Between Dr. Waltzman and Marcus, Marquitta feels very lucky.

“Above and beyond. That’s how I would describe Dr. Waltzman and everyone at Community Medical Center Long Beach,” says Marquitta. “For my birthday – on the day of my surgery – they brought flowers and cake to my room. It was a wonderful experience for me. I love my doctor. And I love my body again.”

Marquitta is hoping to return to work soon and share her resilient and positive spirit with her Veterans. She is making personal plans, too, including being mindful of what she eats, walking, biking and traveling the world. No matter where she goes in life, she’ll be thinking of Dr. Waltzman and all that he did for her.

“I don’t even know when his birthday is, but I’m going to find out and send him a gift. It’s the least I can do for the doctor that changed my life.”