Taking it easy in Medellin


at UPB open air auditorium

at Universidad Nacional – Medellin  open air auditorium (The medellin campus is famed for the lush greenery)

So I am back in Medellin, Colombia for several weeks – but this trip is different from all of my previous visits.  It’s the first time I have come here without a specific purpose.  I’m not here to interview surgeons, attend surgical conferences or even ColombiaModa.

No Colombia Moda this year for me. :-(

No Colombia Moda this year for me. 😦

Medellin has become so familiar to me, that when I needed a nice tranquil space to work on a non-Colombia related project – I headed here to get away from the thousands of distractions of my stateside life.  While I am here, I am also determined to enjoy and explore more of Colombia since I have just seen the bare minimum of life and locales.  So next week, I heading off to one of Colombia’s best known natural wonders, Cano Cristales.

I’m going as part of a group (which is something I’ve never done before).  It’s sounds like it will be a great trip – flying to Meta, Colombia in a small plane – to a community with limited electricity and no cellphone or internet service.  That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but as I writer, I have gotten used to almost always having computer access – almost anywhere in the world.  So this will be a nice break from the ordinary for me.

I don’t have my trusty Nikon this time around, which is a shame since Cano Cristales is famed for its beauty but I will attempt to take some pictures with a tiny camera (that packs well).  It’s weird because I tend to lose my confidence when I don’t have my big, heavy camera.

Naked without my Nikon? Not a great visual, is it?

Naked without my Nikon? Not a great visual, is it?

La Tierra del Olvido (2015 version)

In the meantime, I will continue to work on my current projects, relax a bit and enjoy Colombia.  Carlos Vives, one of my favorite Colombian singers, along with Medellin natives Maluma and J. Balvin, have re-made one of Carlos Vives most popular songs as part of a Colombia tourism promotion. It’s lovely, lively and catching – and features several other well-known Colombian entertainers and Colombian landscapes – so I hope you enjoy.. (Thankfully, no Sofia Vergara!)

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The second time is the charm!


My apologies to my dear readers for this late post.  I usually write about surgery and surgeons, but occasionally drift into other things..   I visited the new Clinica de Medellin facility in late July, but didn’t have time to write about it before now.

Dermatology

Just before travelling to Medellin to cover Colombia Moda and the ALAT conference, I developed a dermatology problem.  As my American readers know, getting an appointment with a specialist in the USA can often take several months.  In fact, I was given an appointment in early July for later this fall.

However, during my stay in Medellin, my dermatology condition continued, so I decided to give the Clinica de Medellin another try.  I had heard rumors about some re-organization of the medical travel division so I decided to use this as an opportunity to verify those rumors.  I am very pleased to report that after sending my initial email to the Clinica de Medellin requesting a consultation with a dermatologist that I received a reply that same day (from Adriana Henao – email: ahenao@correo.clinicamedellin.com.co).

The coördinator called me back to confirm my availability and to ask if I would be willing to go to a clinic at one of the other Clinica de Medellin campuses.   (She also asked about my level of Spanish fluency so she could direct me to the appropriate physician.)

By the next day, an appointment had been scheduled for the end of the week.

New clinic

The clinic was so new that when I gave the address to the cab driver, he merely raised an eyebrow before starting the car.  On arrival, he expressed surprise – and said, “This wasn’t there before.”  The Clinica de Medellin Sede Occidental is divided into a hospital and an outpatient clinic area.  The smell of fresh paint was still evident in the immaculate, and sparkling facility.

The officer at the information desk had me personally escorted to the correct clinic when he heard my American accent (and hesitant Spanish).  I waited about fifteen minutes before being escorted into the private office of Dra. Sara Gonzalez Trujillo.  She was very friendly and pleasant.  We reviewed my past medical history and current treatments before she examined me.  She explained the condition in-depth before writing several prescriptions and requesting a lab test.

She provided me with a full copy of my medical records to take to my upcoming appointment and gave me her contact information.

Total cost of consultation: less than $50.00

 

Lab:

The labs cost about 25.00.  After a quick lab draw, I was given a lab slip with my record number on it.  I later received an email with my login to access my results.  Since I was headed back to the states, I emailed my results to Dr. Gonzalez, who called me with additional treatment recommendations and an explanation of the results.

Since seeing Dr. Gonzalez, I have been using the medications as prescribed – and my condition has improved dramatically.

Follow-up:

I have been taking the medications as prescribed and it is getting better.  I will email Dr. Gonzalez after seeing the dermatologist here to give her an update.

 

To make an appointment with Clinica Medellin, click here.

Street of Dreams – Calle 49


el centro map with shopping districts outlined

el centro map with shopping districts outlined -high resolution

During Colombia Moda, I met several American business people looking for more information about fabric and textiles than the small booths could provide.  Many of them wanted to go out and see the fabrics, some of the shops and the factories but no one thought to take them to see any of these things.  All of the people I met were first-time visitors to Medellin (and some may never be back).  I can’t help with factory tours (I’d like to see those myself) but I do live nearby, so I thought maybe I could help provide some information for future visitors to this fair city. Since I thought wandering around El Centro as a first-time visitor without a guide might be a little daunting, this post might help people feel more comfortable. So I spent all day Saturday wandering around the district  – to take pictures and be able to provide more information to people interested in finding fabrics and materials while in Medellin.

A note about Fabric shopping in Medellin: If you are looking for super cheap – crazy bargains, you probably won’t find them here.  But you will find a huge array of all kinds of fabric – most of it made right here in the city.  For someone like myself who is sometimes (okay, frequently) frustrated by the lack of floor space given to apparel fabrics in the United States – (where it seems like 90% of fabric is for quilting and such), it’s still a bonanza.

Also, while it isn’t made in the USA (which is increasingly rare, I know) – I still feel a bit of loyalty towards buying locally sourced items – even if Medellin is that source. Still interested?  Good.

How to get here – the real Medellin

The best fabric and general shopping in  Medellin isn’t in the fancy malls of El Poblado and Enviagado.  It’s in the busy, teeming streets of El Centro.  El Centro is also where many of the most famous tourist attractions are, so if you are interested in seeing some of the famous architecture, the Botero collection (at the Museo de Antioquia) – you can do that too.  El Poblado and Enviagado are the rich, sanitized versions of Medellin – so if you have friends that aren’t interested in shopping but would like to see more of Medellin – this is a trip to take them on…

1.  Taxi – if you want to take a taxi, ask him to take you to the Plaza Botero.  It’s a few streets away from your destination, but it’s a nice central space – especially good if you are meeting friends or other visitors.

2.  Metro Train –  the metro train is cheap, clean and quite reliable.  It’s also a good way to see a bit of the city.  Take the (blue line) train to either Parque Berrio station or the San Antonio station.  San Antonio is closer to shopping, but Parque Berrio puts you right at the Plaza.  (For more information about the Metro, see this helpful article at Medellin Living).

Get a map –  Now, I know this is a digital age, but sometimes a paper map is just easier.. Safer too because it makes you less of a target for thieves who prey on upscale tourists for all of our fancy electronic devices.

tourist kiosk with maps

tourist kiosk with maps

There are several of these kiosks located in/ around Plaza Botero and around the Parque Berrio station.  Just ask for a map “Mapa, por favor” and they will be happy to provide you with a free map of Medellin.  I used this same map for reference for the shopping areas, to make it easy for visitors to recognize where to go.

Navigating the city Places like Medellin and Bogotá are particularly easy to navigate because streets use numbers, not names for the most part.  (Once you get used to the system – our system of street naming in the USA seems needlessly confusing.) Everything is basically on a grid – Calles run in one direction and are abbreviated as Cll.  Carreras run in a perpendicular direction and are often abbreviated as Cr. It makes locating a business very easy.  For example, my favorite fabric store in Medellin is Textiles El Faison – and their address is Calle 49 #53 – 101.  This means that they are located on Calle 49, about 101 meters from the cross-street, Carerra 53.

Now that you are here – with your map Walk south towards Calle 49.  (To orient yourself – remember that Medellin is set in the foothills.  If you start walking uphill, you are heading East (the wrong direction) – towards the financial center of Medellin (near where I usually stay). On Calle 49 – turn West (or downwards on a very slight grade)  The next several streets will be crammed with shops filled with all kinds of sewing related items – thread stores, fabric stores, sewing machine repair etc.

Sewing machine repair and sales

Sewing machine repair and sales

Many of the shops look tiny compared to JoAnn’s or the big craft stores you may be used to.  Sometimes they are tiny – but sometimes, it’s just the entrance to a larger indoor mall.

Entrance to one of the small fabric markets

Entrance to one of the small fabric markets

Fabric

Now, the fabric stores line Calle 49 and many of the cross-streets.. But sometimes notions can be a bit trickier to track down.  A lot of tiny shops sell just one product – like elastic or ribbon trims, buttons and the like.

small shop in an indoor fabric mini-mall selling thread

small shop in an indoor fabric mini-mall (Shanghai) off calle 49 selling thread

elastics and trims

elastics and trims

As I mentioned before, my favorite fabric store from my wandering on Saturday – is Textiles El Faison.  It’s a big store, and not quite as claustrophobic feeling as some of the smaller shops.  (When the shops are crowded, and the fabric piled to the ceilings, I get a bit closed in feeling in some of the smaller shops..) Not that this would prevent me – if I saw ‘the fabric’ there.

many shops are small but piled high with fabric

many shops are small but piled high with fabric

Lots of great stuff- but limited luggage space, so I move on to the next ones.

as you can see - the width of the store is pretty narrow, maybe 12 feet in total. Now add ten customers and I get a bit 'crowded' feeling

as you can see – the width of the store is pretty narrow, maybe 12 feet in total. Now add ten customers and I get a bit ‘crowded’ feeling

But for general browsing, or to see fabric in a shop more like what most of us are used to – Textiles El Faison is a well-lit two story shop.   Jaime Sosa is the manager there – and he is very nice and helpful.  My photos are a bit blurry because I was relying on my small phone (an older model) because I don’t like lugging my fancy Nikon down to El Centro).

Jaiime Sosa

Jaiime Sosa

Here’s the address for people who want to skip the adventures and go straight to his shop:

Textiles El Faison Calle 49 No 53 – 101 Medellin

displays piled high with fabric

displays piled high with fabric

But that’s not the only great place.. I really liked Portofino Textil too.. It’s located on the ground floor of a little textile mall.  (It’s a very interesting mall – about half the shops sell custom printed fabrics).

One of the malls for custom printed fabric

One of the malls for custom printed fabric

I was trying to cover a lot of ground, so I didn’t stop in and get all the details on custom printing – even though I saw little storefronts printing the fabric during my wandering.  (Maybe I will get a chance to go back and ask some questions.)  Custom may be the wrong word since most of it seems to be more like “Small lot pop prints” but at one shop, I did see a customer hand over a jump drive filled with images for printing).  But some of the other shops / kiosks didn’t look to have computers just their own style of pop prints (justin beiber, popular artists, other cool designs).

small storefront.. the lady in the blue tank is printing custom fabric

small storefront.. the lady in the blue tank is printing custom fabric

Portofino IMG_1881 Portofino has more of a warehouse feel  –  and a two meter minimum.  Fabric is priced by the kilogram.  I couldn’t resist one of the fabrics there – and my two meters of this lightweight lycra was 0.7kg in total.  For an example on prices – the tag on the bolt said 45,000 per kilogram but advertised a discount.. After the discount, my fabric total 27,156.  tax added a bit – for a total of 28,350 for my two meters of a 60 inch (or there about width).   According to today’s exchange rate – that’s about $15.35 (or around 7.50 a yard since a meter is a couple of inches more.)  So, like I said – not a crazy, amazing deal – except that I love the fabric, it was made right here, and it’s certainly not something I’d find at Hancocks or Joanns (if we even had one in my town). It’s actually located under another fabric store but I found it to have better selection, and salespeople that were very helpful and friendly. (Fabien was particularly nice – and patient with my limited Spanish).

I just couldn't resist..

I just couldn’t resist..

Portfino Textil #162  Carrera 53 No. 49 – 68 Medellin There were quite a few other shops – so you will just have to make you way down Calle 49 and find your own favorites. Patterns Pattern magazines can be especially hard to find – but when you do find them – they are a great deal.. Most pattern books contain anywhere from 20 to 200 patterns.  It depends on the magazine.  My favorites are Bianca, Quili and the more simply named Patrones.  Bianca has a lot of the patterns that are hard to find in the United States – like an extended variety of swimwear, lingerie and exercise apparel.  They also have a great assortment of patterns made for the new stretchy fabrics; lycra blends and modal.

Magazines containing 10 - 40 different patterns

Magazines containing 10 – 40 different patterns

Patrones is a grand brand because it has copies of a lot of the designs by major labels.  Want to wear your own Dolce & Gabbana? Then patrones is the magazine for you.  Sometimes you can find the magazines at larger newsstands or bookstores like Panoamericano.  Some of the patterns in Patrones are pretty intricate and instructions are limited (and in Spanish) but at 4,000 to 10,000 pesos (2.25 to about 6 dollars) a book – if you are an experienced sewer it is still quite the find.) patterns2 Now – for patterns on Calle 49 – the best place to go is – this little shop..

the place to buy patterns

the place to buy patterns Calle 49 #53 – 14

The place is tiny, so you have to ask to see the pattern books (or point, if necessary.)  They don’t have long aisles to browse like some of the bigger bookstores.  But the owner is very sweet – and they have a large array of titles available.

some of the patterns available at this small shop

some of the patterns available at this small shop

Yarns

Now, Medellin has that ‘perpetual spring’ climate we have been talking about, so I didn’t find as many places offering the bulky and superbulky yarns that I love.  Quite a few thread stores offered the smaller crochet threads and yarns similar to Lily’s Sugar N’ Cream but since I am on a superbulky yarn kick – I will keep looking..   I did see a couple, but shame on me because I didn’t write down exact addresses or take pictures (but since one of them is on a street close to home, I may venture out later this week – when I’ve exhausted my current supply and get some pics.)

yarns

yarns

Now before you head out for your shopping adventure  – review a few things to make your shopping more enjoyable and safe.  

In Medellin – alone or not quite ready to venture into El Centro by yourself?

I am always up and willing to lend a hand – if I am in the city.  (It’s a good guess if I am blogging about Medellin, then you can find me here.)  You can always call me/ text me at 301-706-3929 (If I am not in Colombia, I won’t answer) or email me at k.eckland@gmail.com I’d be happy to arrange to get together for a day tour of the shopping areas.  We can check out museums, eat some tasty street food, buy local produce, window shop – or hunt down that one special piece of fabric you’ve been waiting for..

If you don’t catch me on this trip – I’ll be back.. I’ll definitely be back for Colombia Moda 2015, so if you come a few days early (in July) we can have some fun.

Under Une Canal


Now that it’s over, I can say it’s been another wonderful week at Colombia Moda:  I met Miss Colombia (she seems sweet) and took a picture of the President of the Republic..

santos

 

Didn’t get to meet President Santos, but maybe someday.  (I promise not to talk politics.)

Miss Colombia, Paula Vega of Atlantico region (Barranquilla)

Miss Colombia, Paula Vega of Atlantico region (Barranquilla)

Luis Martin

I even say hello to one of the models (since we were heading down the hallway) and we had a nice conversation.  It’s funny – I guess I always get intimidated by people taller than me, etc.. and I guess sometimes the expectation is just that models aren’t that nice.. But nothing could be farther from the truth.  Luis Martin – a local model from a neighborhood here in Medellin was very nice, sweet and pleasant.  It must be weird for him – I mean, his face is really familiar to me – after two years of seeing it thru my lens..

 

Luis Martin, model and a nice kid

Luis Martin, model and a nice kid

I wish we hadn’t be racing down a hallway – I would have liked to get a photo because he looks better in his own clothes..(Better sense of style).  Anyway, I thought it was nice of him to make conversation with a random gringa.. (We talked about Virginia of all things).  So – I wish him the best luck, and hope he makes the cover of Vogue one of these days.

Last day of Moda

Yesterday was the last day at Colombia Moda, and I don’t have enough nice things to say about all of the photographers and videographers there.  They are the reason I came back this year.  Instead of treating me as an outsider, they have always been welcoming and kind.

the orange backpack shows where I sit during the runways

the orange backpack shows where I sit during the runways

This year it was great to be back and see old friends like Stiven and Fredrico.  I didn’t see some of the wonderful people from last year, like Estaban who kept me in laughter and good humor even when every bone in my body ached from long hours in contorted positions.

Always great to see Stiven

Always great to see Stiven

This year, I have to give special thanks and words of gratitude to the videographers of Une Canal (Channel One) of Medellin.  Une Canal is the public television station for the city and during fashion week, they record live from the runway so it can be seen on big screens outside (so people without access to the runway itself can see it as it happens.)  That means they are at every single catwalk – always smiling, joking and being friendly even while setting up cameras, untangling cables etc…

The Videographers of Une Canal

That’s the handsome Juan Carlos, the charming Danilo Gallego and the ever kind Hernan.  For the entire fashion week, they allowed (and encouraged) me to take one of the plum floor positions beneath their cameras – in the dead center position of the runway.

Danilo Gallego of Une Canal

Danilo Gallego of Une Canal

People with better equipment than my starter Nikon can take sitting positions and even rise up on the press bleachers, but without this prime spot on the floor – I’d have been toast.  I never would have been able to capture 1/10th of the images that I’ve used in my recent articles.

I’d love to do a real (in-depth) articles on the videographers and photographers here at Moda, but it looks like I’ve already been scooped which I think it really cool.  Yesterday, the reporter from Une canal turned the tables of the videographers and interviewed them before one of the runways.

Danilo is interviewed for a segment on Une Canal

Danilo is interviewed for a segment on Une Canal

I am hoping to see Juan Carlos, Danilo and Stiven at some future events here in Medellin before I leave in August..  If not – I’ll see you next year!

Colombia Moda and Examiner.com


leonisa26

Colombia Moda is over, and I am exhausted..  Sorting through several thousands of photos while writing articles about fashion collections has to be done in as timely a manner as possible, which doesn’t leave much time for sleep!

The good thing about writing for the Examiner.com is that they don’t give me any deadlines or article requirements.  I write about what I want – and submit it as fast as I can.  But there is no editor to nag me for specific lines so I feel free to focus on writing about the fashion that I like, or that I think is important.

I don’t write about Gef France because I think it’s boring.  I do cover Studio F if only because it is so immensely popular here – though I prefer the more daring and creative (and often smaller) lines.

But while I continue to gulp coffee and sort photos (even though my eyes are so tired I’m not sure if the photo is blurry or it’s just me, I wanted to give my readers links to my most recent articles (and photos) at Examiner.com

Lenonisa Runway

Agua Bandita and Onda de Mar – the Agua bandita photos are disappointing – the lighting was terrible.  (I thought that was me too – but then several photographers grumbled about substandard lighting and showed me their photos..)  They even called out during the runway to get better light..

Ipanema by Paradizia

Nonstop Runway: Faride Ramos

Nonstop Runway designer trio

Beverly Hills by Carmen Belissa

Studio F

I also talked to some Americans I met at the expo.  They seemed a little overwhelmed and lost – as they looked for textile manufacturers to produce fabric samples for use in their designs.  I bet they would have liked my textile/ fabric city tour idea.

I have a couple of articles I am still working on – and then it will be back to normal here at Latin American Surgery.  The ALAT conference (thoracic surgeons from all over Latin America) will be here in Medellin next week, so we will be back to some surgical topics soon.

Home, again..


fountain

fountain

I’ll be heading home again at the beginning of next week via a bit of a meandering journey.  (The protests haven’t been as much of a disruption as anticipated in most of the bigger cities).,

First I am headed to Bogota to cover an upcoming conference before making my way to Northern Nevada.  From there – it’s a brief trip to Baja California (Mexico) before starting the slow eastward caravan to my home in Southern Virginia.  I hope to post something along the way – but first – a thank you to Medellin, a gracious city and wonderful host.

Colombia’s second city: Medellin

Medellin as seen from Metrocable

Medellin as seen from Metrocable

I’ve had an interesting time in Medellin, even if it didn’t turn out to be as productive as I would have hoped.  I’ve come to better appreciate and enjoy a city that I had previously only known on a very superficial level.

public fountain for cooling off - parque de los pies descalzos

public fountain for cooling off – parque de los pies descalzos

Medellin holds an endearing charm despite its rough edges: From the public parks, to the bustling life of the different barrios (like Aran Juez), to the upscale glamour of Poblado, El Tesoro mall and the high fashion excitement of Colombia Moda, it’s a vibrant life – lived in real-time and Technicolor.

indoor flower garden at upscale mall in Medellin

indoor flower garden at upscale mall in Medellin

photo by Thor Gustafson kids in the park

photo by Thor Gustafson
kids in the park

But whether I am in Poblado, El Centro, on the metro, or on the street – the one thing that really brings Medellin to life are it’s people.

my models help advertise the city of Medellin for it's fashion-forwardness

my models help advertise the city of Medellin for it’s fashion-forwardness

Whether it’s Linda, offering me fresh fruit, or a cab driver watching to make sure I am safely inside before heading to the next destination – or the girl on the train who wants to practice her English, people in Medellin are genuine, down to earth and friendly.

selling fruit in the park (photo enhanced)

selling fruit in the park (photo enhanced)

People, from all walks of life – surgeons, friends, professional photographers and even my hairdresser (Carmen) have embraced me like a long-lost friend.

rides for tots

rides for tots

So while Bogotá will always be my home away from home (in Colombia), the people of Medellin have captured a piece of my heart..

What’s next in Colombia?  Sincelejo, more Barranquilla or maybe even Bucaramanga?  Who knows…

Talking with Dr. Juan David Betancourt Parra, plastic surgeon


I met Dr. Betancourt Parra at IQ interquirofanos while observing surgery with Dr. Luis Botero,. Dr. Betancourt was friendly, and immediately amendable to an interview but it took a little while to coördinate our schedules.

In person, he reminds me a bit of Dr.Carlos Ochoa Gaxiola, the kind and talented Mexican surgeon who graciously permitted me to study with him at Hospital General de Mexicali for several months while writing the Mexicali book.

Maybe it was his laid-back and open conversational style, or the braces on his teeth, giving him a bit of boyish charm that belies his years of experience.  Maybe it was his enthusiasm for his work, but whatever it was, I found the discussion to be especially informative and interesting.

Aesthetic plastic and reconstructive surgery

Dr. Betancourt is a plastic surgeon in Medellin.  He performs a wide range of aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery including corporal (body) and facial procedures such as rhinoplasty (nose), face-lifts, blepharoplasty (eyelid lift), breast augmentation, liposuction etc. but his true love is post-bariatric surgery procedures.

He also performs reconstructive surgery such as breast reconstruction after breast cancer.

Post-bariatric practice

Post-bariatric surgery is a subspecialty area of plastic surgery (reconstructive surgery).  Many of these patients have lost very large amounts of weight (100+ pounds) and have large amounts of sagging, drooping and excess skin.

This skin is more than aesthetically displeasing – it can also contribute to the development of skin irritations such as intertriginous dermatitis and infections.   It is particularly prone to causing problems for females – due to an excess build up of moisture, and friction in the genital areas.  It can also make simple tasks like showering, getting dressed and cleaning after using the bathroom difficult.  Patients sometimes have to “tuck” loose skin from the abdomen into support garments to prevent this skin from slipping down to their thighs.  This excess of skin (and the resultant movement/ friction) can prevent people from participating in normal activities like exercise.

The psychological impact of the appearance of, and the challenges of daily living can be extremely distressing – especially for someone who have spent months or years trying to lose weight.

The group of procedures used to treat this problem is called “Body contouring”.  For the majority of patients – this body contouring process will require several months and several separate surgeries.

Body Contouring

One of the primary procedures for body contouring is called a “lower body lift/ /belt lipectomy/ torsoplasty”.  This is actually two separate but very similar techniques; with the belt lipectomy being a modified lower body lift procedure.  However, they are often grouped together to simplify discussions about body contouring procedures.   The lower body lift or belt lipectomy is usually one of the first procedures as part of the reconstructive process after massive weight loss.

This procedure is the core procedure – which removes the majority of excess skin and tissue which is usually in the abdominal/ torso area.  This is a dramatic and large surgical procedure which I liken to “the open heart surgery of plastic surgery.”  This procedure can take 2 to 6 hours, and often requires a 1 to 2 night hospital stay.

The remaining procedures are more of a ‘fine tuning;, as they are smaller procedures with lesser effects as they are aimed at smaller, more specific areas of the body.  These procedures include brachioplexy to remove excess skin (aka “batwings”) from the upper arm/ bicep area, reduction mammoplasty to remove excess skin and drooping from the breast area, or a thighoplasty, to remove excess skin from the thighs/ upper legs.

One year minimum wait after bariatric surgery

Dr. Betancourt requires a minimum of one year after bariatric surgery before patients begin considering body contouring procedures.

This is important for two reasons:

1. Patient’s weight should be stable prior to performing surgical procedures.

2. This period gives patients a chance to adjust to their new weight.  Several studies have demonstrated that it may take months to years to adjust the mind’s eye (mental image) to a person’s actual appearance.

For an excellent article by Salwar & Fabricatore (2008) on the psychological considerations for patients after massive weight loss – click here.

Mirror versus mind’s eye

This is why many people literally “do not see” recent changes in our weight / appearance (particularly subtle/ small changes) when looking in the mirror.  However, as time passes, the mind’s perception of our image/ appearance usually changes to accommodate changes in our ‘real’ appearance – whether weight loss/ gain, signs of aging (fine lines, wrinkles) or even the loss of a limb or appendage.

photo from uhs.uk

photo from uhs.uk

When the mental / mirror image “mismatch” is dramatic, long-lasting, accompanied by depression/ anxiety or leads to dangerous practices like anorexia, hypergymnasia or self-mutilation – it is called body dismorphic disorder (BDD).  Patients who have successfully adjusted to their new size and appearance are much more likely to have realistic expectations, be satisfied with surgical outcomes and be able to maintain their weight over the long-term.

Dr. Betancourt explained that he enjoys the intellectual challenges of caring for post-bariatric surgery patients for several reasons.  These patients, often differ greatly from the majority of plastic surgery patients due to the presence of multiple co-morbid conditions relating to their previous obesity.   Patients may also have body image issues following the initial bariatric surgery as they adjust to their new bodies.  These patients may require multiple procedures for a complete reconstruction, making treatment a somewhat lengthy process.

Dr. Betancourt states that this is what makes it so gratifying; to be able to provide patients with dramatic body changes, help improve their self-image and enable patients to successfully adjust to their new lives.  He also finds it very rewarding because of the high level of patient satisfaction after these procedures.

These patients account for approximately 1/3 of his practice.

Education and Training

Dr. Betancourt has been a plastic surgeon for twelve years.  For eleven years, he worked in a public hospital, Manuel Uribe Angel in Enviagado, providing reconstructive surgery services to all patients at all socio-economic levels in Antioquia, Colombia .  For the last several years, he has devoted a significant portion of his practice to the sub-specialty of post-bariatric surgery.  He has attended several post-bariatric surgery conferences to learn new techniques and exchange ideas with many of the leaders in the field including Dr. Alaly (USA),  Jean François Pascal (France) and Dr. Ricardo Baroudi (Brazil).

Dr. Betancourt attended medical school at Universidad CES (University of Health Sciences) and graduated in 1993.  He is currently a professor at CES.

He competed in general surgical residency at the public hospital, Hospital Ipiranga in Sao Paulo, Brazil before completing his plastic surgery fellowship at the Universidad Santo Amaro, (in Sao Paulo, Brazil).

He is a member of the Colombian Society of Plastic Surgery (SCCP), as well as the Brazilian Society of Plastic Surgery.

Dr. Betancourt speaks Portuguese and English in addition to his native Spanish. He reports some trepidation with his English but was readily able to communicate with me without difficulties.

Dr. Juan David Betancourt Parra

Torre de Especialistas Intermedica 

# 1816

Calle 7 No.39 – 137

Medellin

Tele: 352 0264

Email: plasticjdb1@une.net.co

Website: www.plasticjbd.com

International Patients

While the majority of Dr.Betancourt’s patients are from the local area, he does see international patients. After an initial contact by email, or via his internet page, Dr.Betancourt solicits a complete medical history including previous surgical reports (from previous bariatric or plastic surgery procedures) and current photos.  Patients will also need to have blood work, and EKG as part of the pre-operative evaluation.  Additional studies may be needed depending on the individual’s history and diagnostic test results. (Patients may be referred to Internal Medicine specialist, as needed).

Following the on-line/ email communications, patients will be seen, for an in-person consultation and full physical examination. Dr. Betancourt’s office will make arrangements for a translator and companion to accompany the patient, as needed.  With the patient’s assistance, a full surgical treatment plan will be designed at that time – which discusses how many surgeries and what the anticipated timeline and recovery will be.

As discussed above, the torsoplasty/ belt lipectomy is usually the first procedure performed, often followed by reduction mammoplasty/ mammoplexy.

With the torsoplasty, patients are usually hospitalized for 1 to 2 nights.  They are encouraged to be active and ambulatory as soon as possible after surgery to prevent post-operative complications such as thrombosis and pneumonia. Dr.Betancourt usually engages private nurses to assist patients following their discharge from the hospital.

Sufficient recovery from return travel usually requires 3 weeks, and is monitored by Dr.Betancourt.

Dr. Betancourt also provides psychological / counselling referrals as needed for patients.

Additional References / Reading and Resources on post-bariatric surgery

* Recommended reading:  Langer V, Singh A, Aly AS, Cram AE. (2011).   Body contouring following massive weight loss. Indian J Plast Surg [serial online] 2011 [cited 2013 Aug 11];44:14-20. Available from: http://www.ijps.org/text.asp?2011/44/1/14/81439

Excellent article with general overview of the issues and procedures with before and after photographs.

* Recommended reading:  Shrivastava P, Aggarwal A, Khazanchi RK. Body contouring surgery in a massive weight loss patient: An overview. Indian J Plast Surg [serial online] 2008 [cited 2013 Aug 11];41:114-29. Available from: http://www.ijps.org/text.asp?2008/41/3/114/43607

Additional Readings

Distressing skin problems” – a 2011 first person story about skin problems after massive weight loss from the UK paper, Daily Mail.

Aldaqal SM, Makhdoum AM, Turki AM, Awan BA, Samargandi OA, Jamjom H. (2013).   Post-bariatric surgery satisfaction and body-contouring consideration after massive weight loss.  N Am J Med Sci. 2013 Apr;5(4):301-5. doi: 10.4103/1947-2714.110442.

Giordano S, Victorzon M, Koskivuo I, Suominen E. (2013).  Physical discomfort due to redundant skin in post-bariatric surgery patients.  Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2013 Jul;66(7):950-5. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2013.03.016. Epub 2013 Apr 9.  [free full text not available].

Song AY, Rubin JP, Thomas V, Dudas JR, Marra KG, Fernstrom MH. (2006).  Body image and quality of life in post massive weight loss body contouring patients. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2006 Sep;14(9):1626-36. [no free full text available].