New Look at the New Face

Dec 7, 2005 3:49pm

Thursday afternoon

Roger Sergel, who heads our Medical Unit, keeps a large database of e-mail addresses of leading specialists around the country.  It can be very useful, especially for emotionally-fraught cases such as last week’s story on the partial facial transplant in France.

Roger and his team showed their contacts before-and-after pictures of the young woman on whom the operation was done.  I’m sure you can find the ‘before’ picture elsewhere on the web, but suffice to say it is quite unpleasant to look at. 

It changed some minds.  Here are some of the responses Roger’s team got, and just passed on:

Dr. Ian T. Jackson, the director of Providence Institute for Craniofacial and Reconstructive Surgery and the editor of the European Journal of Plastic Surgery, says, “I was very skeptical about the facial transplant until I saw the extent of the initial deformity and the reconstruction. I do not feel that a similar reconstruction could have been performed in any other way.”

Dr. Thomas Romo III, the chief of Facial Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, says, “In order to reconstruct her in a conventional way, she would require many staged operations, greater than five, and the cosmetic appearance would be below average at best.”

Dr. Peter Costantino, the director of the Center for Facial Reconstruction & Restoration at the Roosevelt Hospital: ”Given the nature of the original defect, any (and I mean ANY) plastic surgeon who says that he or she could have reconstructed the patient to the same degree as the transplanted tissue is just not being honest with either the patient or themselves….  At this early stage, the only thing that I can say to Dr. Dubernard and his team is "Bravo."

Other doctors urge caution; the patient’s improved appearance right after the operation may not last.  But it’s different from some of the doubts we heard in the days following the surgery.


It’s Cold Outside

You knew that, of course, if you live anywhere from Texas north, but with energy prices skyrocketing, I was asked to put together a piece on how to keep your heating costs under control. You’ll find it elswehere on our site, but here’s the text:

Dec. 7 — There’s been sleet this morning in Dallas. In Chicago, it was nine degrees above zero, with no hope of reaching the freezing mark until Sunday. And in New York, the winds are gusting to 24 miles an hour.
All of which would mean that winter is coming—but this year, post-Katrina, with refineries at capacity, home heating is going to be an expensive proposition. The Energy Department reported today that oil inventories are higher than they’d expected, so it’s lowered its forecast for how much more it will cost people to get heat this winter—but they’re still high. The Energy Department says the average household will spend $203 (or 26%) more this year than last.
Here are the new numbers, as reported by our Business Unit:

       Oct. Forecast/New Forecast

Natural Gas + 48%     + 38%

Heating Oil    + 32%     + 21%

Propane         + 30%    + 15%

Electricity       +   5%     +   7%

(A note about electricity: it may be rising the least—but the Energy Department says it is still, by far, the most expensive way to heat a home.)

Saving Energy

The silver lining in all this is that you’re not a prisoner of the weather.  There are things you can do to keep the heating bills under control.  Here are some ideas, provided by the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy:

Play with your thermostat.  If it has a timer, set it to lower the temperature overnight, and at hours you know you’ll be out during the day.  Experiment with what works for you.  (One estimate is that lowering the temperature overnight to 63 degrees in northern climates can cut your energy consumption 10%–but such numbers vary widely, depending on the house, the climate…and whether you like lots of blankets.)

–Play with your water heater.  Again, there’s no simple formula here, but you can probably lower the thermostat on your hot water heater.  “You’ll not only save energy, you’ll avoid scalding your hands,” says the ACEEE. 

Insulation pays for itself over time.  If you own your home, and you’re doing work on it, add some insulation in the attic.  Wrap some extra insulation around your hot-water heater—and the pipes leading from it.  If you’re replacing windows, take a look at models with the EPA’s “Energy Star” label.  All these things cost more up front, but pay for themselves in lower utility bills, and higher resale value of the house if you move.

Plug the leaks.  Amory Lovins, a long-time sustainable-energy advocate who is now president of Natural Capitalism, Inc., often points out that the typical house has enough poorly-fitted doors, spaces between panels, and unnoticed openings in the attic that “it’s like keeping a window open all winter.  You’re paying for that,” she said in an interview we did.  So give your house a once-over.  Cutting off a draft can make a surprising difference.

Shop around.  Different oil companies charge different prices.  Ten states, and others to differing degrees, have deregulated natural gas so that you are not obliged to buy it from your local utility—in essence, the utility is just the company that pipes it into your home.  You can go on the web, or the phone, to shop for a company that will charge you less.   

One last notion: cross your fingers. The National Center for Environmental Prediction, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, projects that this winter will be warmer than normal for almost all of the country, from the Ohio Valley to the west coast.

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