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Thursday, November 17, 2005

CHICAGO, Aug 22, 2005 (U.S. Newswire via COMTEX) -- For a commercial airline pilot severely burned over 55 percent of his body in a plane crash to once again fly commercial jets with his reconstructed hands, Matthew Warmerdam serves as one shining example of the reconstructive patients who achieve unthinkable goals through steadfast determination. Each year, plastic surgeons restore lives by performing reconstructive surgery on patients suffering from potentially fatal illness, injury or disease.

Whether surgery occurs at birth or during retirement, the recovering patient has a blank canvas from which to design their life after surgery. Some individuals seize the opportunity to paint a masterpiece. Four Patients of Courage, who triumphed over their physical trauma and have given back to their community, will be honored by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) during Plastic Surgery 2005 on Saturday, September 24 at 4:30 p.m. at the McCormick Place Lakeside Center in Chicago. Although only four awards will be presented, ASPS Member Surgeons treat patients of courage everyday, each with a unique and remarkable tale of overcoming adversity.

"It takes a highly motivated patient to tackle the obstacles facing most reconstructive patients," said ASPS President Scott Spear, MD. "The Patients of Courage stories are wonderful examples of how dedicated surgeons, by virtue of hard work and modern techniques, help patients conquer very difficult and challenging times in their life."

Caitlin Sarubbi, 15, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was born with an extremely rare congenital syndrome known as ablepharon- macrostomia where she was born without eyelids and absence of body hair. She also had a deformed mouth and facial appearance. She has endured 44 surgeries from eyelid and forehead reconstruction to hand surgery and more. Although legally blind and hearing impaired, Caitlin is a model student and a star athlete. Currently training for a position on the National Paralympic Ski Team, she volunteers for various outreach programs, for example helping disabled soldiers learn to ski. As Caitlin proclaims, "disabled does not mean not abled, it just means differently abled."

Matthew Warmerdam, 38, Atlanta, was the copilot of a commercial jet that crashed in Georgia. Matthew suffered serious injuries including severe burns over 55 percent of his body, requiring partial amputation of his fingers. Initial trauma care and numerous reconstructive surgeries including burn care, skin grafts and hand surgeries restored Matthew's life. However, Matthew was determined to fly again. With his wife's support, years of physical therapy and learning how to fly again with reconstructed hands, Matthew fulfilled his dream and has returned to the sky. Matthew draws on his experience to help other burn victims overcome difficult phases of surgery and recovery.

Mabel Wong, 88, San Francisco, was attacked by 5 pit bulls for over thirty minutes. Doctors debated if survival was in her best interest with such extensive injuries as the loss of her entire scalp, both ears, soft tissue of her face, and muscles and tendons in both arms. Mabel did survive and during her three month hospital stay received eyelid reconstruction, muscle and tendon reconstruction and skin grafting. To the delight of family and friends, Mabel is upbeat and once again active in her community delivering meals to sick neighbors and teaching knitting.

Kristy Adams-Ebel, 33, Charlotte, had already experienced the affects of breast cancer as her mother was a breast cancer survivor. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she not only thought about taking care of herself but also how she could help others. After chemotherapy, bilateral mastectomy and breast reconstruction, Kristy spearheaded a non-profit organization, Carolina Breast Friends, to create a positive environment for women with breast cancer by providing education, encouragement and friendship. She raises money for the Sister Fund which helps women pay for healthcare expenses. Even though she is dealing with a recurrence of cancer, she continues toward her goal of building the Pink House where breast cancer patients and family can gather to receive counseling, makeovers, financial advice and more.

The Patients of Courage: Triumph Over Adversity program is supported through a grant from Ethicon, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. With more than 6,000 members, the society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises 94 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.


NOTE: Reporters can register to attend Plastic Surgery 2005 and arrange interviews with patients by logging on to Annual-Meeting-Media-Information.cfm or by contacting ASPS Public Relations at 847-228-9900 or in Chicago, Sept. 25 to Sept. 28 at 312-949-3250.

LaSandra Cooper or Brian Hugins,
847-228-9900 or,
both of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Copyright (C) 2005, U.S. Newswire

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