Where did you get that hat?

In March 2007, I underwent an extremely rare operation in a specialist surgical unit in Nottingham. A Riedel’s procedure is an operation of last resort and is only used in patients where all other surgical treatments have failed. The procedure causes a cosmetic defect in the forehead but reconstruction can be done at a later stage if necessary.

This first picture was taken to mark my safe return from the operating theatre. During the surgery my head was opened from ear to ear via a zig-zag coronal incision and my ‘face’ was peeled back to the bridge of my nose, to expose the front of my skull. The diseased anterior wall and floor of both frontal sinuses was cut away leaving behind a large hollow in my forehead. The edges of this bony hollow were then ‘chamfered’ (planed) to make a gentle curve so that the soft tissue of my face could fall in and line the hollow area.

My ‘face’ was then put back where it belongs and the coronal incision was stapled together before a pressure bandage was applied with a drain in place to minimise haematoma formation. Ten days later, the staples (all 59 of them) were removed from my scalp and I was well on the way to making a good recovery. I’ll never forget how good it felt to be able to wash my hair again.

The pictures below document my recovery following this operation. My return home from hospital in April of that year happily coincided with the early arrival of summer so I got to enjoy a whole month of lazing around in the sunshine. The sun proved to be a perfect tonic and quickly dried up the pressure sores on my forehead.

In the last year, I’ve had two further operations on my head in Nottingham plus extensive IV antibiotic therapy to eradicate a bone infection. The final photograph shows how my face looks today now that all the swelling has finally subsided. Reconstructive surgery is available to improve the contours of my forehead but having recently discussed the options with my surgeon, I’ve decided not to proceed.

I’m more than happy to leave well alone.





17 Responses to Where did you get that hat?

  1. Jeanie says:

    What a journey Steph.
    You look beautiful through it all xx

  2. alhi says:

    That’s incredible. You have gone through such extensive surgery and the only sign is a very small indent. Talk about skilled surgeons. Do you have to be careful not to knock the area where there’s no bone?

  3. Steph says:

    Jeanie – Thanks! I’ll send the money on 😉

    alhi – Four surgeons in total have operated on my head over the years and I hope there won’t be any more! I’ve been very lucky to be under the care of some of the best Head & Neck surgeons in the world.

    There is a layer of bone left between my forehead and the base of the my brain. The frontal sinuses form a pocket between two layers of bone and I only had the convex anterior wall and floor of this area removed. I’ve little or no sensation in the concave area left behind so yes, I do tend to be careful of my head.

  4. Bendy Girl says:

    Wow, you must be the ultimate medical zebra Steph 😉 I agree with the others, you look very beautiful throughout! BG Xx

  5. Steph says:

    Bendy – 😀 The thing that matters most to me now is staying free of further osteomyelitis.

    btw I found your answer about reflexes (over at Achelois’s blog), fascinating. I’ve certainly been told in the past that the proprioception in my joints (balance) is not good. I never connected this with the let-down reflex but you may well be right!

  6. Grannymar says:

    Thankfully despite all the surgery, those eyes can still dance!

  7. Achelois says:

    I love the collection of bandanas. You have had a rocky ride steph and I looking to the future I hope that soon you will have a life free of all things osteomylytis and any further surgeries. I am not as brave as you I don’t think.

  8. Alex says:

    Beautiful! I have a fondness for dents. It sounded much scarier than it looks and perhaps it has helped me not be quite as scared of that option except for my posterior wall is only calcified now. The Emerald is looking quite appealing x Thanks Steph x

  9. Annb says:

    Wow Steph that’s quite a collection of battle armour – what an incredible journey. I’m so glad to hear you had the trust and support of what looks like a very skilled surgical team. I hope things are improving for you.

  10. Baino says:

    Very brave of you to post the photos steph but incredibly interesting and absorbing. Sounds like an awful ordeal but you look cute in a bandana!

  11. Steph says:

    Grannymar – And dance they will 😀 Thankfully, those eyes can still see as well. One of the risks of serious infection behind the eyes, is permanent blindness.

    Achelois – The blue bandage was a pressure bandage which I had to wear for a while to stop bleeding inside my head. While it caused horrible pressure sores (soft EDS skin), I actually missed the support it gave my head so I took to wearing bandanas until my head was properly healed. btw You are MUCH braver than me when it comes to putting up with pain!

    Alex – I knew you’d appreciate this post and like my dent! My whole forehead has actually changed shape and is now flat rather than the normal convex shape. However, I wear my hair in a slight fringe so nobody really notices the cosmetic defect. It reminds me of a Kerry joke…

    Q. Why do Kerry dogs have flat faces?
    A. From chasing parked cars… sorry!

    The bridge of my nose has also radically changed shape and is very tender. As I now need glasses for driving and watching television, it’s proving to be quite a problem so I may have to resort to wearing contacts as soon as my eyesight stabilizes.

    Annb – It looked a bit like I was sporting a mohican hairstyle for a while but once the large wound had healed, it was heaven to be able to wash my hair again. I know I mentioned in a previous post that I got a free hair wash thrown in with the surgery. My hair was so matted with blood in the operating theatre, they gave me a wash and blow dry before applying the bandages. How’s that for service?

    Baino – This is actually the first time I’ve shown these pictures to anyone other than my immediate family so THANK YOU EVERYONE for your kind responses.

    I hope I never, ever have any more pictures like these to show anyone.

  12. Alex says:

    OOOhhh Steph – the big contact lens debate – well I need glasses/lenses all the time in order to be my nosey self. I must say that I get on much better with daily lenses once I am feeling well enough to put them in after an op or infection. They take the extra line of annoyingness away. Be brave and give them a test – they really help. I bought a pair of £25 glasses that were light plastic and quite large (to incorporate swelling) before my op last year and haven’t worn my expensive ones since as comfort and not being annoyed are much bigger on my agenda now..

  13. Steph says:

    Alex – That’s great to hear. Thanks!

    I, too, have had to give up using my ‘designer’ glasses in favour of a very ordinary looking pair of lightweight specs. I mentioned the problem I’m having with wearing glasses, to the surgeon and it was he who suggested that I should consider wearing contact lens. I haven’t gone down this route as yet as my eyesight has only started to deteriorate over the last few years but as I’m very close to needing to wear glasses all the time, I’ll move to contacts shortly. Most people find they need reading glasses as they age but of course, Steph has to do things differently!

  14. Annb says:

    Just spotted the contact lens chat there – I’m a glasses wearer – and have tried all sorts of contact lens combinations. I wear daily disposables but only if I’m going out and vanity insists on my leaving the specs at home. The dailies are fantastic but you might want to try a few different brands as I found some brands really dried out my eyes. There are a few draw backs (which is why I only wear them socially) – drying eyes seems to be a thing with me so I find computer work really hard with them as is flying and any air conditioned room. However I have recently discovered Artelac eye drops which you use with lenses in situ and it works a treat. Just wanted to share some lens lore with you! Good luck! (oh and one last tip – first lens then mascara never the other way round trust me!)

  15. Steph says:

    Annb – Thanks! Where would I be without you? 😉

    That sounds like very good advice. Both of my offspring use dailies at various times and don’t appear to have run into any trouble wearing them. My problem is that I can’t wear my glasses for close-up vision i.e. computer or conversing face to face. I presume this would also apply to wearing contacts? My sight is definitely getting worse and that’s why I thought that if I wait until I need glasses all the time, then contacts will be the perfect solution?

    Does this make sense or am I talking rubbish? 🙄

  16. Annb says:

    Without me? – You’d probably be in your rightful place – running some country or single-handedly saving our health service while sailing solo round the globe!;-)

    What you say makes total sense: I’m with you on the conversation thing – I feel glasses are a block to good conversation – I even take mine off to eat – I know; a weird family trait I inherited from my dear departed myopic Dad! So contacts are fan-flippin’- tastic for conversation, just (as I’ve said) not the May West for computers but then again that could be an idiosyncratic issue affecting only yours truly so I would advise trial and error. Any optician worth their salt will give you a week’s free trail – what I find is I buy a month’s supply of dailies – and since my social life isn’t exactly hopping (to say the very least!) that usually does me for a year! So the cost is very reasonable. Some friends, once they are up and running with their lens of choice, get better deals when they purchase on line. I buy so little that I’m happy to have my eyes checked with the optician with my annual purchase. I wouldn’t even wait till you need specs all the time – they are not a big commitment try them out they could really be a perfect solution to your current problem – if they don’t work out at least you won’t have spent a fortune. Good luck!

  17. Steph says:

    Annb – I’d settle for sailing in a warmer climate, will that do ❓

    My eyes simply don’t feel comfortable wearing glasses for near vision and like you say, it feels like they’re coming between me and the person I’m talking too. I couldn’t give a monkeys what I look like in them. I’ve taken all your advice onboard and shall set sail with it to the optician’s the next time I need an eye test. Thanks a million!

    btw Here’s wishing you lots of extra treats in lieu of the money saved on contacts!

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