AVENTURA, Fla. – The traumatic injury to Valerie Romero’s nose happened in an instant in January 2017.
She was looking down and texting as she walked past a horse in the stables where she rode when the animal suddenly bit her in the face.
“The next thing I know there was a flash and then something dripping down my face,” she said.
The entire end of her nose was gone.
“It was so quick. To this day, I have no idea why,” Romero said.
Stephanie Santos lost a large portion of her nose after undergoing surgery to remove skin cancer.
***Warning: Video contains graphic content.
“I had a basal cell carcinoma so my MOHS surgeon suggested I get a plastic surgeon involved,” Santos said.
Both women turned to plastic surgeon Dr. Joshua Lampert, who is an expert in nasal reconstruction.
“The nose is something that you have to reconstruct all the layers unlike other parts of the body. We have to reconstruct the inner lining, we have to reconstruct the cartilage or boney framework and we have to reconstruct outer aspects of the nose,” Lampert said.
The process is staged over several months and involves replacing missing cartilage to provide the structure and shape of the nose.
“One of the common places we’ll get cartilage is from the ear. An incision can be placed behind the ear where it’s well hidden. The other place is the rib,” Lampert said.
To replace and support missing skin and tissue, Lampert turns to the forehead.
“The closest match we have to skin on the nose is skin on the forehead,” he said.
Blood supply to the skin graft comes from an artery in the forehead by creating a flap that covers the nose.
“It looked like something from a horror or Halloween costume, or mask, so it was pretty scary,” Santos said.
By the end of the process, both women looked as if they’d never suffered such traumatic injuries.
“In the end, I couldn’t be more grateful for that,” Romero said.
“For the most part, I feel like I look like my old self so I’m very happy with that,” Santos added.