Groggy and numb, before she said a word, Jackie Adams gave a thumbs up and cracked the biggest grin she could muster -- even though she couldn't feel her face.
While her world seemed a slow daze, masked doctors and nurses in green scrubs scurried around to wrap her head, take towels off her body and clean up the surgery area.
Adams had just come out of a face-lift surgery and she was feeling fine. She moved slowly down the hall to the recovery room, but when she got there, she was dancing in her chair, enjoying the effects of the pain killers and numbing agents.
"I'm ready to go," she said.
She continually asked whether her face was swollen and whether she sounded funny when she talked. She was parched and ready for her husband, Bryan, and 12-year-old daughter, Sierra, to come from the hotel to pick her up. Then the family had a long trip from the Center for Cosmetic Surgery in Golden back to Craig.
"I get to sleep all the way home," Adams said.
She slept, even snored, through much of the two-hour surgery as well. With an intravenous (IV) tube stuck in her arm, Adams was at least partially asleep.
Her surgeon, Dr. Andrew Wolfe, then inserted a needle with anesthesia under her cheek skin near her ear to numb the area, which blanched the skin. He cleaned her face and neck with an antiseptic solution and marked the areas for his work with purple ink.
He made his first cut on her right side, beginning near her temple along her hairline. He continued close to her ear, under the lobe and behind the back of her ear.
The next step was to lift at the incision and make small cuts toward the center of her face under the skin, creating the cheek flap over a large portion of her face.
Wolfe stressed how important the depth of the cuts are in this process to avoid nerve damage. While he worked, he used a bovie -- an electric tool -- to seal off blood vessels to prevent excessive bleeding.
He said Adams is young but had excess skin, which is common among his patients.
Adams, partially coherent, responded that she was "aging fast."
But Wolfe didn't think so. "Not today, kiddo. You're actually moving backwards today."
As Linda Platt, a certified surgical technician/first assistant, held the cheek flap up with prongs, Wolfe again used the ink to mark a section of fat beneath the skin to be removed.
After inking the rectangular section, Wolfe used scissors to clip the area. He then stitched the two edges of the clipped fat under the skin together to tighten the face's appearance. Those stitches will be left under the skin for good.
The stitches on the outside, however, typically are removed after a week. Wolfe began with one stitch just above the ear.
"This is the key stitch in the whole surgery," he said.
As he moved along the entire incision, he cut away excess skin he pulled back while stitching. If the stitches aren't clean, he said, around the ear is where it will be most evident Adams had a face lift.
Wolfe finished the running stitch, careful to not gather the skin too much behind the ear, then started the process on Adams' left cheek.
As he worked, he chatted with his three assistants about the latest episode of "The Apprentice," and resolutions to give up drinking soda pop. Easygoing music resonated from the counter on the side of the surgery room.
"I think the thing that has revolutionized plastic surgery in the past year is the iPod," Wolfe said laughing.
He can choose the music he likes without asking the nurses to repeatedly change the CD.
A bit more seriously, though, Wolfe said the "short-scar" surgery he performed on Adams was invented by Dan Baker, a New York doctor. This has changed the business by giving clients faster recoveries and more discrete scars, he said.
"We wanted something that was less invasive but gave an improvement," Wolfe said. "It's as effective, or more effective, than some of the more involved face-lifts."
Adams thinks so too. She had the surgery Jan. 28 and made it out of the basement of her home and into public within four days. She got some stares at the grocery store, but they didn't faze her. She was ready to get back to life.
But the bruising, numbness and greasiness from the Neosporin she put on her stitches were hard to take the first couple of weeks.
"I won't lie to you, there is pain," Adams said. "But to me the pain is worth making me look maybe five years younger."
She had trouble chewing food, and reading -- one of her favorite pastimes -- nearly was impossible because she her glasses hurt her cuts.
Adams even had trouble doing everyday activities. She could not strain when she went to the bathroom or bend down when picking something up.
"You don't realize how much pressure you put on your face doing simple little things," she said.
So she had to be careful, and her husband and daughter babied her while she was recovering. But they had some fun with her too.
Bryan made a habit of calling her Frankenstein, though his wife preferred the name Frankette.
Adams returned to work quickly and enjoyed showing off her new look.
"I'm really glad I did it," she said. "I feel a lot better about myself. This has been a real positive thing in my life."
Bryan, who was supportive but not in agreement with the surgery, told his wife he didn't notice much of a difference, and definitely did not think the surgery was worth the money that could have bought him more car parts or a new motorcycle.
"He still says I was beautiful then and I'm beautiful now," she said.
Wolfe said he's happy she's happy with the results, but stresses plastic surgery isn't for everyone.
Many times, prospective patients come in with pre-conceived notions of what surgery is like, often false understandings based on television programs.
"The reality shows have a great ability to gloss over the truth about surgery," Wolfe said. "It's like they're choosing something out of a vending machine."
He rejects many clients who come in because they want surgery for the wrong reasons. Candidates need to know the risks and realities. If they don't, Wolfe will turn them away.
"It's much better to have someone disappointed that you didn't operate on them than disappointed that you did," he said.
But prospective patients need to be aware of which doctor they're choosing, as well. Any doctors can call themselves plastic surgeons, regardless of area of medicine in which they hold a degree.
"I don't think dentists should be doing face-lifts," Wolfe said. "It's the patient's responsibility to make sure they're getting it done right."
Once someone's had a procedure done, it's not uncommon for them to return for more work, or to even have the same surgery done again later in life.
"The younger you are when you had your first one, the more likely you are to need touch-ups down the road," Wolfe said.
While in Denver, Adams had BOTOX between her eyebrows at the "rejuvenate!" center. So, she spent more than $5,000 in procedures in two days.
She and her husband have been discussing future surgeries, including a possible breast augmentation. She's going to wait to heal from the face-lift first though.
She got her hair cut recently, and thinks that her New Year's resolution of looking better and feeling better is finally starting to come true.
"I feel almost complete," she said. "Now all I've got to do is lose weight."
For more information, contact the Center for Cosmetic Surgery at 877-255-2600 or www.thecenterforcosmeticsurgery.net.