By a nose

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, February 20, 2013 10:08 PM

In Indonesia, some 9,000 miles from here, a 30-year-old woman named Yustince lives under careful supervision. Once married, her husband is long gone and hopefully in jail, though the laws for maiming one’s wife in many of these countries are disgustingly lax. Yustince had an altercation with her husband three-years ago. He pinned her down and using a machete, he sliced off her nose. Since the attack, she has worn a piece of gauze, secured by surgical tape, over the area. In addition to having a hole in her face, the tape has caused extreme irritation.

Yustince was destined to live a life in shame with no chance for assistance until Rebecca Grossman of the Grossman Burn Foundation in California somehow heard about her situation. Grossman traveled to Indonesia and met with Yustince to talk with her and discuss what might be done.

The Grossman Burn Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Grossman Burn Center, the plastic-surgery based medical center of excellence that specializes in the comprehensive treatment of burns. It provides local and worldwide support to families and children who have suffered severe and debilitating burns or related injuries. The Foundation provides healthcare, financial aid, legal support and education. One of their initiatives is the Stop Violence Against Women Globally campaign that uses petitions and documentaries to help educate against violence and abusive behavior.

Two years ago, they helped a girl named Bibi Aisha, a young Afghan teenager brutally maimed by her Taliban husband and family. Her ears and nose were cut off as punishment for daring to flee after years of abuse. The Grossman Burn Foundation stepped in and they’re continuing to help her.

Why do men in the Middle East and Southeast Asia mutilate women? It appears to be more than punishment; it’s to shame and terrorize them. If that’s the case, mission accomplished.

In addition to Grossman, Yustince is also getting help from a man named Alec Gillis. In his studio in Chatsworth, California, Gillis normally creates zombies and other monsters – he’s an animatronic special effects and prosthetic makeup effects character creator – but when Rebecca Grossman approached him about creating something as simple as a nose, Gillis’ first response was fast and unequivocal: No problem.

Gillis went to work. Using photographs and a color chart to match Yustince’s skin tone, he created a myriad of different noses from different materials. Some could be glued directly to the face but since glue can cause additional irritation, a problem she has had since the mutilation occurred, he also created some nose prosthetics that could attach to eyeglasses and sunglasses via a magnet.

On the left, her mutilation; on the right, with the Alec Gillis prosthetic

Once Gillis had the noses complete, Grossman took them to Indonesia to deliver them in person. Yustince tried them on and a plastic surgeon at the Grossman Burn Center, Dr. Peter Grossman, was able to watch via the hospital’s telemedicine technology. He suggested some changes to make the nose look more natural.

Yustince has a daughter, and while in Indonesia, Rebecca Grossman took a mold of her daughter’s nose. With that mold and Dr. Grossman’s suggestions, Gillis is making adjustments so that the nose will be as perfect as it can be in terms of skin tone, and fit.

I first saw this story on the news last night. I was amazed. I’ve heard of the Grossman Burn Center for years; it is one of the most renowned institutions in the world for treating burn victims. They have done amazing work for more than 44 years. They make news with their non-profit work, their foundation. And with their worldwide campaigns like Stop Violence Against Women Globally.

With the help of some Hollywood heavyweights, their work is even more incredible. When it comes to helping a woman regain her confidence and go about her daily life without feeling ashamed, I’ll take Southern California, and specifically Hollywood, by a nose. 

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