Facing A Better Solution

Reporter: Shannon Samson

Web Producer: Jason Bailey

You've probably heard the expression "put your best face forward;" but that isn't always possible. Thousands of people every year live with cancer, gunshot wounds, or other severe injuries that leave a major deformity on their face.

The Health Team's Shannon Samson introduces us to a team of artists who rebuild confidence, by rebuilding faces.

The emphasis on appearance is wide-scale in today's society. One expert maintains that we focus much of our attention on beauty, and consideration of what is beautiful.

Ann Vitale, a maxillofacial prosthetics technician, helps patients overcome severe conditions that have damaged their facial appearance.

"In the society that we live in, people are so in tune to beauty," says Vitale. She designs and paints prosthetics that give cancer patients and gunshot victims a new face. She combines her efforts with another specialist to restore a patient's appearance.

Doctor Donald Gay, also a maxillofacial prosthodontist, sees about eight patients a day. He constructs the prosthesis for the eyes, ear or a nose, by making a reverse copy of the undamaged section on the face.

"We make the impression, then bring it back, and the technician pours a model that's an exact duplicate of the patient's face into the impression," says Gay.

The model is then given to Vitale, who creates wrinkles, veins, and some life with paint and a 'q-tip.

Jean Cohen lost her entire ocular orbit to cancer. She admits she was more worried about what she would look like than her potential brush with death.

Cohen, who has a prosthetic eye, says she didn't think that she would ever look at herself the same, or anyone else either.

"I said, 'I've got eight grandchildren that have to look at me, we're not going to do that."

Cohen adds, "I said, 'never gonna' look like my face; never gonna work,' and then when they popped it in, I said, 'wow, that looks good, that looks real good.'"