Facing Life with Confidence

A new surgeon strengthens plastic surgery and hand surgery capabilities at Mary Greeley Medical Center.

In May 2009, a large surgical team entered an operating room at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and performed the first double hand transplant in the United States.

Warren Poag, M.D., was part of that team. Specifically, he was a member of a three-surgeon unit that successfully transplanted a new left hand on a 57-year-old man who lost his hands and feet a decade ago to sepsis.

Dr. Poag, who specializes in hand surgery and plastic surgery, is now part of the McFarland Clinic staff, and he brings new surgical skills and complements others at Mary Greeley Medical Center.

A Big Decision

Jolene Frette didn't know about Dr. Poag's role in the double hand transplant when she became his first facelift patient at Mary Greeley Medical Center. It would have only bolstered the confidence she felt upon meeting the personable young surgeon.

Frette recently retired after 15 years with McFarland Clinic, where she was director of clinical research and also established the First Nurse Program. Concerned that her face was getting saggy, making her look old and tired, she had been considering plastic surgery for about 10 years.

"I wanted my jowls gone," she says. "But I didn't want it to look fake or unnatural."

When Dr. Poag arrived in August 2009, Frette saw an opportunity.

"It's great to have this option in Ames now," she says. "I know other people who've gone out of town for one reason or another, but
I wanted it done locally."

Still, Dr. Poag was new, and Frette would be his first facelift patient in Ames.

"I started thinking that I might be crazy to do this because he just came here, but I talked to a nurse who knew him and she said, 'I'd let him do it in a heartbeat,'" says Frette. When she met Dr. Poag she asked him how many facelifts he had done ("I think it was a dozen or so.") and discussed risks and benefits. He immediately put her at ease.

"Dr. Poag was so great. He had such a nice manner, and he answered all my questions very honestly," she says. "I got the feeling right away that he was a fussy and particular person, which is something I think you want in a plastic surgeon."

Frette finally decided it was now or never, and on a cold, snowy day in late January, she had the surgery. It took six hours, but she was home that night, her head bandaged. She spent several weeks sleeping in a recliner, which aided the healing process. While she had some to-be-expected bruising and swelling in the upper part of her face, within a few days she took the bandages off and admired her attractive new jawline in the mirror. She also noticed that her skin felt tighter, and fine wrinkling in her cheeks had decreased.

Frette did not tell many people she was undergoing surgery, and when those who did not know saw her, they told her how great she looked and wondered if she'd lost weight or done something to her hair.

Even during "the first week and a half or so, somebody asked me if I had been in a car accident," but Frette didn't let any bruising or swelling bother her. Within a few days after surgery, she was at Ames High School cheering on her granddaughter's basketball team.

"I don't miss a game," says the devoted grandmother of four.

A Perfect Pair

Plastic surgery and hand surgery go, well, hand-in-hand.

"All hand surgeons are trained in plastic surgery," explains Dr. Poag. "Just about every tissue you can operate on in the human body is in the hand-vessels, nerves, tendons, veins, skins, ligament, as well as bone. Plastic surgery involves many of these tissues, and, like hand surgery, it also involves high-finesse operations with delicate structures."

Dr. Poag's interest in medicine started when he was young. In high school, he had a job as an orderly in an operating room in a hospital in his hometown of Bloomington, Ill. He still remembers an emergency surgery that played a role in his future interest in hand surgery and plastic surgery.

"A printer had smashed his hand in a press and a plastic surgeon put it back together," he says. "It took many hours but I was so impressed that this young printer was going to be able to go back to return to his profession because of what this surgeon did for him."

Much of Dr. Poag's skills have been used for reconstructive surgery, especially when he was on staff at Level 1 trauma centers in Pittsburgh and at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

While things are a bit quieter in Ames, Dr. Poag has stayed busy. He helped a young man who sliced several tendons when he was
working with his dad on a chimney, slipped backwards and ran his wrists across metal flashing. He also has done a lot of plastic surgery consultation, including breast augmentations and tummy tucks.

"This is real surgery with real complications," says Dr. Poag. "You want to consider the whole person. How healthy are they? What are their goals? What can I realistically achieve for them?"

He achieved just what Frette hoped he would. She's thrilled with her facelift and says some of her friends are starting to talk more seriously about having work done. She won't hesitate to recommend Dr. Poag.

"I know a couple of people who are more encouraged to consider it," she says. "I think it's more common for women to reach an age
and start thinking, 'I need this.'"

Frette's a positive, upbeat person and her facelift has only enhanced her outlook. She and her husband, Dennis, who is also retired, plan to spend their time enjoying their family and the gorgeous new sunroom they recently added to their home.

"I feel good," says Frette. "There are so many things in life to do and so many things to enjoy."