Surgeons Give Woman New Face After Near Decapitation


"We said, 'Let's take this and increase awareness and have a bigger impact,'" Williams said. "Domestic violence is not acceptable. Remember Anita Hill and how she changed the workplace? We can do the same thing."

One of his patients was a woman in an abusive marriage who had to have an identity change for protection after she left her husband. She had a rhinoplasty to fix a broken nose after she had established her new life.

"When you talk to these folks, it's amazing what a difference it makes in their lives," Williams said. "Whether it's a scar or a cheekbone fracture or a nasal fracture, every day they look in the mirror it digs up those emotions."

That was the case with Morales, whose life changed in an instant six days after she broke up with her boyfriend.

At the time of the assault, Morales was taking care of her mother, who was disabled from a stroke. A health-care aide came in during the day. Her boyfriend, a restaurant worker who also owned a fleet of taxis, lived elsewhere, but supported the family.

"Many times before, I would break up with him and we would get back together again," she said. "Sometimes, he would tell me, 'If you ever leave me, I will kill you or kill myself.' I never thought he meant it."

She got frustrated with the restrictions he placed on her and his "total control" and decided to leave in 2005. "But this time," she said, "it was for sure. It was the end."

But on July 1, 2005, her boyfriend called to say he wanted to stop by to give her one more check to help pay her bills. She agreed and when he arrived at the apartment, he asked whether they could go into her bedroom to talk, where there was more privacy.

"He started telling me how sad he was, and I was just using him and now I was leaving him," Morales said.

"Then all of a sudden, he took out this knife from his sock … he started attacking me immediately and didn't even give me time to react. I was in complete shock. I couldn't get out and couldn't do anything. He was so fast."

He stabbed her everywhere: her shoulder, neck, breasts, arms, stomach and even her vaginal area.

"The last thing he did was the face," she said. "I remember going in and out of consciousness."

The aide and a neighbor who heard her screams called police. He was arrested on the spot. Morales had cardiac arrest in the ambulance en route to the hospital. Doctors told her family she might die.

Since then, she has had more than 17 surgeries for her wounds, followed by physical therapy and psychological counseling. Once her pain medications wore off at home, she was in shock and denial and grief set in.

"I could easily hide the scars on my body, but the face was difficult to hide and not even make-up helped," Morales said.

"I was always strong and accepted what had happened," she said. "My main problem was seeing myself in the mirror. When I saw all the scars, I felt like I was looking at another person."

When Morales finally received her facial and neck surgery, she also got a new set of teeth. Every one had been knocked out in the assault.

Now she has begun to work as a professional makeup artist and now has a boyfriend, one who she says is stable psychologically and truly loves her.

"Finally, because of the surgery, I am able to appreciate people and life again," she said.

But Morales warns other women to watch for the "red flags" of violence. "If you are afraid of the person, get out, get help and go to a shelter."

"It's important to talk about it," she added. "Women are losing their lives, getting beaten every day."

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