DANIELLE: I grew up in Merritt Island, Florida. I only left to go away to college at Florida Atlantic University and came right back to Brevard County and have been ever since.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your family.
DANIELLE: My family is all from up North, so New York/New Jersey area, and we relocated to Florida when I was born. My father has owned his own business for 30 years, he is a jeweler, and my mom has been a nurse at Cape Canaveral Hospital for over 30 years. My brother grew up here and lives in Texas and my sister lives here now too.
Q: Tell me what kind of things you were in to when you were growing up.
DANIELLE: Growing up I was very much into the theater, dance, music world. I played piano. I sang in choir, was very active in my church. I took every dance class under the sun and was also really involved in dance at school, choir at school, drama at school. I was the drama girl in high school. So, I was very interested in the performing arts.
Q: After high school what did you do?
DANIELLE: After high school, I went to Florida Atlantic University and I danced on the dance team there for a couple of years. I studied marketing and advertising and communications, but I wanted to get into the music industry, so being in South Florida I thought that would be the perfect opportunity to get involved in music in Miami and that didn’t end up happening. I moved home and I got a job working at it was Brevard Community College, now it’s Eastern Florida State College, and I’ve been there for a little over 7 years. Around 2009, I was in a pretty bad car accident in Downtown Melbourne and I was injured pretty seriously and I hurt my back. I ended up having to have surgery on my spine a couple of years later, but I went through really intensive physical therapy, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractor, every non-invasive procedure I could have. I had epidurals. I had steroid injections, and nothing seemed to work. So having the surgery was the last resort and it’s definitely helped, but I’ve had complications from that car accident ever since. I haven’t been able to really exercise, haven’t been able to dance, which is very odd for me to not be as active, especially physically, because I’ve always been my whole life. Lately, my life has been work and trying to get my life back together.
Q: So what brought you to Clevens Face and Body Specialists initially? What was going on for you?
DANIELLE: Starting in high school, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I had two goiters on my throat and I had to have surgery to have them removed, and since high school, I’ve struggled with my weight on and off and like I said, it’s not for lack of being active, I was very active, dancing every single day and working out every single day, but there was nothing I could do that could help. When I had my car accident, I was pretty sedentary for about 3 years. I wasn’t allowed to exercise or wasn’t allowed to do anything outside of Yoga, and it helped, but I was pretty limited physically as well. I wanted to go to Dr. Clevens, because I felt my body needed a makeover essentially. I had my son 2 years ago and due to my car accident, I had to have a cesarean to deliver my son, because my back wasn’t strong enough to deliver him regularly and my body has just been through a lot of trauma. So going to see Dr. Clevens and Dr. Ortega was something that I just needed and at this time in my life, I felt that I was ready to make a change, and I was really happy that I chose Dr. Clevens.
Q: You said you struggled with your weight. I think a lot of women can relate to that. What did that look like for you? What did that feel like?
DANIELLE: My weight has always been a struggle for me since junior year of high school when I was diagnosed with the hypothyroid. When they removed my thyroid, it was almost immediate I felt like my body just turned on me; my body just shut off, because your metabolism just shuts off. So in college when I was dancing professionally on the college dance team, you had to maintain a certain body image or you weren’t allowed to dance, so I struggled with an eating disorder all through college to try to maintain that you know size 0, size 2 figure to fit into these, “This is your uniform. You have to wear this or you don’t dance,” that was the approach. When I moved home and going through the accident and everything and not being able to work out that was a huge struggle for me, because I wasn’t used to not exercising, so my weight just kept gaining and gaining, and I did what I could, but again, I felt like my body was working against me. I’ve been taking Synthroid my whole life and I watch what I eat and I’m very careful about that, but just nothing helped. After having my son and having the cesarean, I thought, “Oh, I’m going to work out. I’m going to exercise and everything is going to be great.” And then life happened. I was in graduate school and I was married and had a new baby and worked full time, so when are you supposed to exercise in that time. So I still continued to gain. So again, it’s not for lack of trying to lose weight, there’re just things that happen to your body, especially after you have a C-section, there’re things that happen to your body that no amount of exercise can ever fix and being a 31-year-old single mom, I wanted to fix that.
Q: I know you told a story last week at the seminar about going into a dressing with the pants. Can you tell that story? Because I feel like we’ve all been there. “Oh, my god,” whatever size, but we’re not feeling good about it.
DANIELLE: For me, my turning point where I knew I had to make a change, because I had hit rock bottom essentially I was pants shopping in Macy’s and I couldn’t find any pair of pants to fit me in the juniors to young adult’s section. I had to venture over into the Misses section and I found a pair of pants that were a size 14 that had a tummy control panel and at the time, I was only 29 years old and I could not handle that and I broke down in the fitting room and was sobbing. Again, I was used to being a size 2/4. Now, I’m not trying to look like I did in high school, but for me and for my body type that was unacceptable for me and to be broken down in the fitting room in the mall not only was humiliating, but it something that I knew that I had to make a change in my life, so that was my turning point.
Q: So how did you make your way to Clevens Face and Body Specialists? How did you find us?
DANIELLE: I found Dr. Clevens’ office, because I have heard wonderful things about him throughout the community. I had sought a consultation elsewhere first and then I wanted to see Dr. Clevens, because I felt his office would be the final say as to yes, I think that this would be a good procedure or this I think would be good for you, and I trusted what his office would tell me. So, when I finally saw Dr. Ortega and met her, not only did I immediately feel comfortable with her, she as a female really could read the results I was trying to have and I felt like she knew what I really wanted and I felt comfortable with her and I felt that she was going to deliver the best possible results and I booked my surgery right away.
Q: Can you tell me specifically what you all discussed as the procedure that would help you achieve the outcome that you were looking for?
DANIELLE: To achieve the outcome I was looking for, I would have to have a few different procedures done. Within my pregnancy, I did have muscle separation in my upper abdomen and you can’t liposuction there, so what happens is they have to do some muscle repair and sew that together. I had the cesarean and I had a lot of scar tissue from that and the gaining and losing so much weight I had that was a big problem area for me – let’s put it that way. So in order to achieve the results I wanted, I would have had to have a full tummy tuck with the muscle repair and then also to achieve the full look of the results, I would need to have full liposuction on my back. So I had my entire back from just under my shoulders all the way down to my flanks done, as well as this side area, which makes a huge difference. It was amazing.
Q: So how were you feeling about your body at that time, before your procedure? I don’t know if this applies to you, but I know for me it definitely affected my relationship. So if you can talk about that if it applies to you.
DANIELLE: Prior to having my procedure, I was suffering a lot with body image issues. I was very self-conscious. I was very nervous about being seen out in public with a bikini on or a top without a sweater. I could have bought stock in Spanx. I wore Spanx with everything. A lot of people had no idea what I had going on under my clothes, because I hid it very well and that hindered me from starting new relationships, being out in public, dressing up because you have to find something you can wear the right undergarments with. So when I went to see Dr. Ortega, I was pretty much, “Please tell me what you can do with me, fix this. I am 31 years old. I want to feel like I’m 31 years old, and I want to feel like I’m single and I’m beautiful, and I want to start my life over again.” Since then, it’s just made a marked difference in my life.
Q: Did you explore any other options with Dr. Ortega when you were talking or was this kind of what she presented to you and you were like yes, that’s what I want to do.
DANIELLE: Being that I had a consultation prior to seeing Dr. Ortega, I kind of knew what I was looking to have done. I did a lot of my own personal research and I really wanted the full “Mommy Makeover” including the breast augmentation as well, but when I met with Dr. Ortega, we decided that we would save that for another time, but I had an idea of what I wanted to have done and the look I was trying to achieve and with what I wanted to look like when I was finished, this is what I had to do.
Q: How did you research prior? You mentioned a consultation. Where there any other ways? Did you research online? Did you talk to people? What did that look like for you?
DANIELLE: I did a lot of research online myself. I like to watch all the shows and I like to see what other people are having done and kind of what’s new in technology and how people are doing things, because I know a lot of times there are new procedures that are less invasive. So I wanted to try and see what other options there were before going full abdomen cut open. I did a lot research online and I have a lot of friends that have actually had this procedure done, friends that have their children, they are happy and set in their marriage and in their lives and in their ways, and so they had this procedure to help them with their quality of life. So in speaking with them and seeing their scars and seeing what that was like for them in hearing their stories, I decided that was something that I could handle. It was something that I wanted to do and it was right for me, so I pursued that procedure.
Q: What were your impressions of Dr. Ortega? Kind of walk me through your consult experience – what did that look like?
DANIELLE: When I first met Dr. Ortega, she came walking in the room and she is very demure, very quiet, very professional and she let me speak, she let me talk, and she really listened to what I had to say and I felt like she was really understanding what I was telling her, and then when she let me finish, she came forward and said what she thought was sounded appropriate. “This is what I’m hearing you say.” “This is the look that I think you’re trying to achieve.” “This is what I can do for you.” As a female-to-female having someone actually listen to you and relate what you’re trying to do and they get it, that was huge for me, so I just immediately had stars in my eyes for this woman and I completely trusted her and even to this day, she is amazing and I would let her do anything with me again.
Q: Tell me what you recall about the actual procedure, like going in to it what did that feel like. Were you nervous? What was going through your mind?
DANIELLE: Before my actual procedure, I tried to have a very tough approach. I know my Mom was very nervous. My Dad was very, very nervous, because you’re going under full anesthesia for a very long time. I, again, tried to be tough as nails and it didn’t really hit me until I was in the preop room waiting to go in, and the nurses are coming in and I’m getting hooked up with IVs and things and they’re putting the socks on and “Okay. We’re going to get ready to go.” I had the panic, “Oh my gosh! This is really happening. I’m going to wake up and I’m going to be a totally different person.” So instead of being scared, I was more excited that it was finally happening and I couldn’t wait to wake up and I couldn’t wait to see what everything was going to be like, and of course, it takes a very long time to see what that’s going to look that, but I just knew that was the beginning of my journey. So I was excited!
Q: Tell me about your recovery. What did that look like?
DANIELLE: My mom actually moved in with me for about a week or so to assist with my recovery. It was painful. I’m not going to lie. It was a painful experience, but keeping in mind that I could see the finish line at the end, it was something that’s just it is what it is, and I’d get through this day and I’m going to move to the next day. Dr. Ortega is great as far as pain management. She doesn’t really believe in having a lot of pain narcotics and medication, so I felt great, and I had the Exparel for my surgery, which was a Godsend. It was amazing, so that really relieved that initial 3-day pain that you’re going to have, so it was pretty manageable. The hardest part for me was the shower. That was very difficult, but Dr. Ortega insists right away to take a shower as soon as you can, get in there, get cleaned off, so that makes you feel 100 times better when you’re in the shower, but it’s difficult. But really you need help. Don’t try to do it by yourself. You need at least one person to help you. If you have small children, have your husband or your partner or your parent. They have to help you. There is no way and lifting things, have someone lift for you. You know it’s great! Take that time to relax and recover. I watched the all the seasons of Breaking Bad. It was awesome! That was how I recovered.
Q: How much downtime did you have? How long before you could actually get back to your regular activities?
DANIELLE: I requested 2 weeks off of work, but I was back at work in less than 2 weeks. I went back about Wednesday in my second week, so I felt strong enough after those first few days. I knew that I would be sitting. I mean I wasn’t going to be running around campus or doing anything crazy, but I felt comfortable enough and secure enough that I could be driven to work and sit at my desk and do what I needed to do. I had my son and I was able to work with him and do what I needed to do with him. We were comfortable together and he understood, “Mommy has a booboo, so don’t touch Mommy’s tummy.” So he understood that and I was honestly back to my normal life within 2 weeks to 2-1/2 weeks, but back to work in less than 2 weeks.
Q: Tell me about your son.
DANIELLE: My son is one of the most spirited little people I’ve ever met in my life. He’s just a beautiful little person. He’s very full of energy. He smiles all the time. He’s very happy, and he loves his Mom. He’s just such a joy to have and he’s wonderful. He really helped in this procedure too, because I felt like I’m doing this partially for him, because I want to feel better about myself. I want him to see my self-confidence reflected, so that when he’s growing up, he’s confident in himself. I wanted him to learn that from me and at the time, I was not a very good example of that at all for him. Now I feel much happier, healthier. I have more energy, a lot more energy, and I just feel a lot better and I feel like I can be a great Mom to him and give him what he needs.
Q: How do you feel about your body now?
DANIELLE: I feel amazing now with my body and with the results. I have a little bit of swelling that’s still going down of course, but I feel amazing, and the best part about all of this is shopping and getting clothes that actually fit and being in my closet and trying something on and “Ah! This doesn’t fit!” but for a good reason. It doesn’t fit, because it’s too big. That’s amazing! So I’m going through this purge of things that are old and tired and don’t look good and I’m shopping and buying things that are more form-fitting, because I’m more comfortable. I’m buying sizes that I haven’t bought in years, and I just overall feel so much more confident in myself and I feel okay to be in a shirt without a sweater on and I feel okay to wear a skirt without tights. I feel just overall like a huge weight has been lifted off of me, literally, and I feel so much more confident since having this procedure done. It’s done a lot for me, so it’s great!
Q: What do your family and friends think about this?
DANIELLE: My family and friends could never understand why I wanted to have this done. I think the only person that really got it was my Mom, because I tell my Mom everything and I would break down to my Mom on a regular basis and she saw how much I struggled since high school and through college and after college and post accident and after my baby, and she was the one that was there and understood how difficult that was for me. Friends and family, they understand now, I think, but like I said, I was really good at hiding what I had under my clothes. I was very good at it. People at work or people I’m friends they were like, “Oh, you didn’t need to have that done. You looked great.” Then I show them my before and after pictures and they’re like, “Ok. Well, you look great now. You look awesome!” So I think now people are understanding and when I can kind of elaborate on this is what led up to me having this procedure done and this is what it’s done for my life and my emotional well being since then, now they get it and I think people are really supportive of that, because they see how happy I am.
Q: What has this experience meant for you? How has it changed your life?
DANIELLE: This procedure and this experience have changed my life tremendously, because of the self-confidence issue that I have had. I am just so much more feeling at one with myself and I feel on the outside the way that I feel on the inside and being a younger person that’s really important, especially trying to start over again in a relationship that’s very important because of who you’re attracting; you’re going to attract that if you don’t feel confident in yourself like that’s what you’re going to pull to yourself whether it be a romantic relationship or friends. That’s what I was pulling into my life and now I’m pulling such positive energy and in meeting different people, I don’t feel shy, I don’t feel self-conscious whether it’s men or if it’s friends or anything I just feel more comfortable with myself. So moving forward, being able to exude self-confidence and being able to be comfortable in my own skin that in itself was worth every penny and every once of pain and every tear that I shed from having this done, every penny, and I would do it all over again.
Q: So overall what has your experience with Clevens Face and Body Specialists, like the whole practice, been like?
DANIELLE: Overall, my experience with Clevens Face and Body has been tremendous. I mean I don’t have a whole lot to go on otherwise, because this is the first time I’ve ever had anything like this done. For this being my first time having any sort of a procedure, I couldn’t ask for a better experience. Everybody is warm and welcoming. They know your name when you walk in the door. Everybody has just made me feel so comfortable. The nurses can call me and, “Hey Danielle!” It just feels like a family with Clevens Face and Body, and I feel very confident that if I was ever going to have anything else done again that I absolutely would go back to Clevens Face and Body and anybody that I talk to and they see how much better I am, “Oh, what did you have done? Oh, where did you go? “I tell them Clevens Face and Body. Go see Dr. Clevens or go see Dr. Ortega. She’s wonderful. It’s been tremendous for me, because I don’t have the experience before, so being a first timer, it was great!
Q: Are there things you couldn’t do before your surgery that you can do now or things you’re more comfortable doing?
DANIELLE: There’s a lot that I feel more comfortable doing now than I did before. I’ll say that I have bought my first bikini in about 6 years. That was pretty big for me and it’s a small one, so that’s great! I feel much more comfortable being out in public and wearing a bikini or wearing pants that are a little tighter or a shirt that’s a little tighter. I’ve been wearing shirts that are open in back and that has been unheard for me since probably college, so that’s been tremendous. As far as being able to move around better, I’m literally 20 something pounds lighter than I was before, so I feel a lot more agile. I feel like I have a lot more energy and I feel like my body is starting to reciprocate and it’s like a light bulb turned on and my body is like working again. It’s great, so I just feel a lot more energized and just overall so much better.
Q: Do you have advice for others who might be considering a procedure like yours?
DANIELLE: Yes. If you are considering a procedure like this, I say go for it. I think that you need to feel in the moment as happy as you can, because you only have one life and you need to live it and you never know what’s going to happen. For me, it was really important to have a better quality of life and I feel that a lot of other people can relate to that. I have my child. I’m happy with that. I have a great job. I have a great life and a supportive family, and so it was time for me to work on me. So if there is anybody else that’s feeling maybe there’s something missing in their life or they’re exercising and eating right and there’s just this one area that won’t go away no matter what, there are ways that you can fix it. It’s not taboo to have plastic surgery done and I don’t feel ashamed for doing it. I’m happy I did it. I’m happy to talk about it and being a younger person some people say, “Don’t you want to have more kids?” You can have more kids after having this done. I don’t really want to mess up what I have done. I would like to keep it this way for awhile, but I mean there is nothing really holding you back. So if you can make it happen for yourself, just do it. If it’s in your grasp, do it, 100% do it!
Q: Would you recommend Clevens Face and Body Specialists?
DANIELLE: I would absolutely recommend Clevens Face and Body Specialists for anything that you’re wanting to have done. Dr. Ortega’s wonderful for all things body and Dr. Clevens is wonderful from the neck up. He’s one of the best, I would say, one of the best in the world. I mean he’s already one of the best in the country, but he is world-renowned and in Brevard County, so you really can’t beat that. I feel that he would surround himself with people that are as professional and at the same level he is, so I feel confident that I had the best care, the best surgeon, the best nurses, the best of the best that you could possibly have. It’s been a wonderful experience and I would absolutely tell people to go see Clevens Face and Body Specialists.