Port-Wine Stain: Taking Treatment to the Next Level to Achieve “Normal” Appearance

I was born with a port-wine stain on the right side of my face (cheek, neck, and ear). While many people have insecurities having their face be anything less than perfect, I feel blessed because not once, but twice in my life, I was connected with a doctor who changed the way I feel and see my port-wine stain.

I was lucky enough to meet Dr. Roy Geronemus, Director of the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York, when I was a toddler and received laser treatments from him to help with the coloring of the stain. The treatments I have received (and continue to receive to this day) have helped my port-wine stain transform from a deep purple to a light pink (and nearly invisible in some areas).

However, the laser treatments only help with the coloring of the stain, and when I was approximately 23 years old (in 2004) I noticed that the right side of my face and ear seemed to be much “fuller” or “puffier” than the left side of my face. Dr. Geronemus referred me to another physician who unfortunately was unwilling to take on my case, and I chalked the thickness of the port-wine stain up to something I would have to live with—we all have physical things we would like to change—this would be mine, at least it was no longer deep purple.

Fast forward to 2015 when I revisited the topic with Dr. Geronemus, this time because I was bothered by the way my ear looked (more so than my cheek). After some discussion and research (around the possible surgical options and costs), I discovered Gregory Levitin, MD, who Dr. Geronemus “approved” for me to see.

The moment I met Dr. Levitin I was impressed by him; he was smart, friendly, compassionate, and both honest and direct with me on the pros and cons of each surgical treatment and the results I could expect. He also made me completely comfortable being vulnerable about the situation; as interested as I was in the possibility of having the thickness removed, I was fearful of the thought of more surgery and the possible results; he calmed all my fears. When my mother and I left his office, we looked at one another and in unison said, “I trust him, let’s do this!”

On October 5, 2015, Dr. Levitin performed my surgery, which included the use of liposuction technology (cheek and neck) and reconstructive surgery (ear). During the surgery, Dr. Levitin was able to remove approximately 85 percent of the vascular malformation from my cheek and neck and reconstructed both of my ear lobes. Dr. Levitin needed to reconstruct both ear lobes because if he only did the one with the port-wine stain, I would be even less symmetrical that I currently was.

My recovery was a lot less painful than I envisioned it would be, and I was back to normal life in a week. My scars are almost invisible, and I once again have pierced ears. In the year plus since my surgery I have received a lot of comments on how great I look. Dr. Levitin changed the look of my face in a natural way—removing only what was needed and making my face look and feel thinner. A few months back Dr. Levitin told me that I no longer look like someone with a port-wine stain; I cried tears of joy on the spot and to this day choke up every time I think about it.

I am so grateful to Dr. Levitin for taking my port-wine stain treatment to the next level, and my only regret is that I did not find him sooner. I am forever grateful.

- Alison