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First Person: Ford Warrick

First Person: Ford Warrick

January 2006

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Really?

Because my butt had atrophied to the point where it was basically muscle. I had lost so much cushioning that when I would sit for long periods of time, it would be uncomfortable. So when I had this done, it was like I had a cushion back. It was definitely much more comfortable to sit down after the first treatment. He spread a numbing cream on my face. He said that he couldn't do numbing injections into my face, because then your facial muscles relax and he can't see exactly the way your face is shaped. So he does a numbing cream. But, I have to say, the facial injections were painful. They were uncomfortable. And also, he has to press down to spread the solution in your face. Just having so many injections in your face and having him press on your face, it was very uncomfortable.

How long did it take?

The entire process took about an hour and a half, and that's including the consultation and having the injections done.

For your face and your butt?

Right. So it really didn't take that long. Then I went back the second time in the middle of March. He did a second full treatment on my butt and a touch-up treatment on my face. Then we both felt satisfied that two treatments were enough for my butt, because it just looked fine, and we were both happy with it. So I feel that my treatment is complete at this time, unless I want to have touch-ups done down the road.

How are you feeling now about the way you look?

I feel much better. I feel much more self-confident. I feel like I look like a normal person. My goal was not to turn back the clock 10 years, or something like that; I really just wanted to look like a normal person. Because I didn't feel like I looked like a normal person before. So now I feel more confident. I like my appearance. I like looking at myself in the mirror now, where[as] I didn't before.

That's wonderful. I'm curious to know: Once you get used to it, is it as if it's just natural fat?

Yeah. I mean, I touch my face and I don't know that there's a filler in my face. My face feels completely normal. I haven't had any problems with lumps or hard areas, or anything like that. My face and my butt just feel normal to me. Although, initially, it's a little bit of a shock, because you get used to touching your face and there only being muscle and bone. Then, after the treatment, and you have your face back, it's kind of a change, because you touch your face and you have cheeks again. You know, and it feels like a normal face. So it's a change, but it's a good change.

Were you able to get your insurance to cover any of this?

No.

Did you look into that?

I contacted my insurance company specifically about Sculptra, because I know that they're not going to pay for something out of the country that's not FDA approved. I wasn't even going to present that to them. But with Sculptra, they said, "Well, we've never heard of this. Get the doctor to describe it and we will run it past our review company," and things like that. Because I didn't decide on Sculptra, I didn't take it any further. My insurance company sounded like they would consider it, but the physician who I went to in Chapel Hill said that he had not been able to get any insurance companies to pay for this. I had heard that there [are] people who have insurance in California who have been able to get their insurance to pay for Sculptra. I think that those companies are few and far between, but I think people should at least give it a shot. All the insurance company can say is no.

Yes. I spoke to someone who was absolutely determined to get his Sculptra treatment. He got the product itself via the patient assistance program or compassionate use and was determined to get the surgery, such as it is, paid for. It took a lot. It took six months and many appeals, but he finally was able to do it. He was able to do it , he thinks, because he had a therapist who documented in great detail the kind of psychological price that he was paying and the way his life had been affected by this.

Right. You're going to have to prove to the insurance company that you're not doing this solely out of a cosmetic reason, that there's an impact on your mental health, or there's an impact -- for example, like, with my butt, that you have trouble sitting. That it causes you a physical problem, something like that, in order to get insurance companies to pay for it. Like you say, it can be done, and I would encourage anybody who's looking into Sculptra to try and get it paid for. But I didn't even bother with asking them to pay for a non-FDA-approved procedure in Brazil. There's no way they're going to pay for that, so I knew that I was going to have to pay for that out-of-pocket.

How much did it cost you altogether?

The entire cost for both of the treatments was about $2,200. Of course, that doesn't include the cost of travel to Brazil. But the treatment itself: for two of the treatments, for the butt and the face, was $2,200, which, for me, was a bargain, considering just to have my face done in Mexico was going to be $4,300.

It also sounds to me like you have a lot of faith in this doctor.

I do. I had heard nothing but good things about him. Then when I met with him, I felt very good about it, because he'd been working with people with lipoatrophy, with people with HIV, for many years. The more I talked with him, the more comfortable I felt. Because I was perfectly prepared, when I went to see him, that if I was uncomfortable, I was just going to say, forget it. If I had gone into that office -- I don't care if I had flown to Rio -- if I didn't feel comfortable with him, I would not have had the procedure done. But he has a lot of experience. He's very compassionate. I have nothing but good things to say about him. I didn't feel like he was doing this to make a buck; I felt like he was doing this because he had had so many friends who have had problems with lipoatrophy, who have had problems with HIV, that he took it upon himself to get into this in order to help people. And I feel like he knows what he's doing.

Did you travel there by yourself?

No. For the first treatment I traveled there with my partner. Then, for the second treatment, I went on my own.

So you have a partner?

Yes. I have had a partner for almost 14 years.

What has the impact of all this been on your partner?

Well, I think that, honestly, he's going to love me no matter what I look like. And he's had to deal with his own body change problems. He doesn't have as much lipoatrophy as he has the fat redistribution, with buffalo hump and things like that. And he's thinking about options to correct that. But for me, he was very supportive. He knew that it was upsetting to me. He felt good about the research I had done, and so he was completely supportive of me getting this treatment. He just felt like if this is going to make you feel better and you feel good about it, then great. Let's do it. He was just behind it 100 percent. I think it was more just because he knew it upset me and he didn't want me to feel so self-conscious anymore.

In the end, did you switch off of the Epivir or AZT?

Yes. I switched my medications to Truvada [tenofovir/FTC] + Reyataz [atazanavir] + Norvir [ritonavir].

When was that?

I switched about nine months ago. I really switched to get off of the Viread + Epivir. I had side effects from the Kaletra, and also my cholesterol was through the roof, being on that med combination. So [by] switching I have not only gone down to only having to take meds once a day, [but] I have eliminated the side effects that I was having from the Kaletra and my cholesterol has gone down to normal.

It also sounds like you have always been exercising and healthy.

I've always been very active. I have always worked out. I have always jogged. I've been pretty health conscious. I try to keep up with what's going on in HIV so that I know how to manage my treatment, things like that.

It must be so frustrating to see your cholesterol go through the roof like that, when you're doing everything right.

Right. It was just a side effect. It was a side effect, probably, of the Kaletra, and you know, I was doing everything right. I mean, my lipids were through the roof. They are supposed to be, I think, around under 400. Mine were like 1,600, or something. We had tried all of these different cholesterol medications, none of which put a dent in it. I really needed to switch off of those meds, just to get my cholesterol level down. It worked, so I'm -- knock on wood -- I'm happy with this combination.

That's great.

 

Click here to e-mail Ford Warrick.

Get your questions answered at The Body's Ask the Experts forum on facial wasting!

Talk to others about lipoatrophy at The Body's Community Center.

This podcast is a part of the series "This Positive Life." To subscribe to this series, click here.
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