By Jerry Zezima
Of all the famous bridges in America — the Brooklyn, the Golden Gate and, of course, Beau and Jeff Bridges — the most impressive is the Zezima Bridge, which spans a great natural landmark: my nose.
So prominent is my proboscis that I could have set up a toll on the bridge — using SneezyPass — and made money to pay for a recent procedure that was performed not by a road crew but by Dr. Gregory Diehl, a sensational plastic surgeon with a practice in Port Jefferson Station, New York.
I first saw Dr. Diehl a few years ago, shortly after my dermatologist told me that I had a basal cell carcinoma, a common type of skin cancer that another doctor removed via Mohs surgery, which did not, fortunately, involve Larry and Curly.
The next day, Dr. Diehl expertly took skin from the upper right side of my nose and used it to seamlessly cover the area that was removed during the operation.
As sometimes happens, however, scar tissue developed. So I went back for a revision.
“I am going to do a dermabrasion,” Dr. Diehl said, referring to a procedure to smooth out surface scarring.
“What will you be using?” I asked.
“A sander,” he replied.
“Did you get it at Home Depot?” I wondered.
“That’s where I get all my tools,” Dr. Diehl said with a smile.
“This one must be big if you’re going to sand my nose,” I remarked.
“It’s small, like a Dremel,” said Dr. Diehl, referring to a make of rotary-action power tools.
“I’ve never heard of it,” I confessed.
“I guess you don’t know your way around a garage or a workshop,” said Dr. Diehl. “I’m pretty handy. I work with wood to put up shelves and make flower boxes.”
“This is why I’m not a carpenter,” I said.
“Or a plastic surgeon,” said Dr. Diehl, adding that he also would make a small incision on the right side of my nose to remove scar tissue that had built up under the skin. “And I won’t even need a power tool.”
On the day of the procedure, Dr. Diehl took a felt-tipped pen and drew lines on the areas of my nose where he would be working.
“You have a flair for this,” I told him as I looked in a mirror to admire his artwork.
In the operating room in the back of his office, Dr. Diehl — ably assisted by certified surgical technologist Ann Rich — numbed my nose (not with an elephant dart) and began to work miracles.
In less than an hour, the surgery was over.
“You did great,” Dr. Diehl said.
“It was nothing,” I replied.
Ann said to put Bacitracin on the affected areas and told me how to change the dressing, which I had to do daily.
A week later, I returned so she could remove the sutures.
When Dr. Diehl came in, he examined my nose, grinned broadly and exclaimed, “I nailed it!”
“I know you’re handy,” I said, “but if you actually did nail it, you would have broken the hammer.”
“I’ve seen a lot of noses,” said Dr. Diehl, who’s 61 and has been in practice for 29 years. “You have a nice one. It’s very symmetrical. And now it looks even better.”
He added that he has seen countless cases of basal cell carcinoma and that his greatest pleasure is “getting somebody out of a tight spot.”
“Do you have any celebrity patients?” I asked.
“You’re the most famous one,” he said.
“You may not be the plastic surgeon to the stars,” I said, “but you’re a star in my book.”
“That’s why we call Dr. Diehl the real deal,” said Ann.
“Take care of that beautiful nose,” the good doctor said as I was leaving. “And stay away from power tools.”
Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima