Disfigured Faces, Facial Surgeries, and Starting Over

Living with a disfigured face can be so traumatic that many people who are disfigured find themselves driven to suicide or simply become reclusive.

It is not pure vanity that leads people to deep depression when trying to cope with disfigurement. It is also a level of loss of identity.

We live with our thoughts all our lives and are content with our relationship with our inner voice, but our appearance is part of our identity.

Whether we like what we see or not, it is the face that we know and relate to. Face disfigurement is one of the utmost psychologically damaging things that a person can undergo.

The Story of Leola Mae Harmon

Why Me - The Story of Leola Mae Harmon: This is the bestseller that became one of the best made for television movies ever.
Why Me - The Story of Leola Mae Harmon: This is the bestseller that became one of the best made for television movies ever.

There is a famous situation in which a beautiful woman was in a terrible car accident with a drunk driver. As a result, she suffered a disfigured face while on her way to work. She was Leola Mae Harmon, and it was 1968.

It was before the seatbelt law, and her face crashed through the windshield. Her lips were completely gone, she lost the baby she was carrying, and she suffered multiple broken bones.

During her recovery her new husband asked for a divorce because he just could not handle being around a deformed woman. Fortunately for Leola her doctor, James Stallings was a pioneer who was willing to try new things in an effort to give his patient her life back.

He used at least two new and experimental procedures to create lips, including using tissue from the genitalia area that ended up resembling real lips. Not only did he restore Leona Mae's former beauty, but he fell in love with his patient and they were married in 1971.

The honeymoon did not last long and they divorced in 1976. But Leola passed away in 1999 from an unknown illness and her ex-husband, Dr. Stallings committed suicide in 1991 by shooting himself.

He had been depressed for some time because he was unable to continue his practice in medicine since he had been suffering from Epstein-Barr Syndrome.

In the early 1980s, Leola Mae wrote a book called Why Me in which she described the details of her horrific accident and recovery.

The book was such a big bestseller that in 1984, a TV movie with the same title was aired. The movie starred Armand Assante as Dr. Stallings.

The Story of Katie Piper

Before the acid attack
Before the acid attack

Katie Piper was a British model and actress who began dating a Muslim man. The relationship was rocky from the start and when Katie was standing on the street in London an unknown man threw sulphuric acid in her face.

The attack blinded Piper in one eye and severely disfigured her face. Her ex-boyfriend had hired someone to commit the crime for him, and they are now both serving life sentences.

Piper was lucky that her surgeons took such care in rebuilding her face. They removed all her skin and used skin grafts and daily massages and laser treatments to soften the scar tissue.

After years of facial surgery and skin treatments, Katie looks as beautiful as ever and is continuing her career in media. Even more good news for Katie was that in 2012 her sight was restored through a stem cell transplant.

Katie during recovery
Katie during recovery
Katie Piper today
Katie Piper today

Lauren Scruggs

Disfigured by an Airplane

On December 3, 2011, 23 year-old model and blogger from Texas Lauren Scruggs walked into a spinning airplane propeller after exiting a friend's private aircraft. Scruggs lost her left hand, her left eye, and suffered lacerations to her head.

Scruggs' accident happened so close to the holidays that she received a lot of publicity, and many Americans followed her road to recovery on blogs and through Lauren's parents.

Lauren was fitted with a glass eye and a prosthetic arm and still has some recovering to do.

She appeared on television to do an interview about her remarkable recovery and it has been speculated that she has had plastic surgery on her entire face because of the slightly fuller appearance to her cheeks, and overall texture of her complexion.

She is a devout Christian with a loving family and therefore has done much better than most people who undergo disfiguring accidents.

She is in the process of resuming her career where she left off.

Lauren shortly after getting her new eye
Lauren shortly after getting her new eye
Lauren Scruggs in public for the first time
Lauren Scruggs in public for the first time

Just a few months after her accident Lauren is seen coming out of her physical therapy with her parents looking happy and upbeat. This is before she got her prosthetic arm.

Lauren Scruggs—Months after the accident in an interview
Lauren Scruggs—Months after the accident in an interview

Lauren looks great after having several surgeries to her face and a glass eye. She is upbeat and looking forward to putting the accident behind her.

Crazy Love: The Story of Linda Riss

Linda Riss before being doused in the face with lye
Linda Riss before being doused in the face with lye

In 1959 at the age of 21 Linda Riss began an affair with Burt Pugach who was 10 years her senior. He was also married to another woman and the father of a disabled daughter.

Burt kept his wife and child a secret from Linda and the two had a relationship in which Pugach grew increasingly attached to his beautiful mistress.

Upon discovery of Burt's lies about his marital status Linda broke off the relationship and began seeing other men, and it was not long before the striking young woman was engaged to another man.

Pugach was enraged. He was an ugly man who possessed some level of charm and sophistication. He was a well-to-do attorney who was willing to spend money lavishly on his mistress, but Linda knew she could do better in every way.

She was not just pretty, she was remarkably beautiful and had many admirers and it just so happened that Riss was engaged to a rich and handsome young man who doted on her.

Pugach had been making threats that if he could not have her no one could. Linda did report him to the police but true to his word Burt hired three men to attack Linda and throw lye in her face right before her wedding was scheduled to take place.

Linda was instantly blinded in one eye and scarred. After serving his time in prison, Burt Pugach married Linda Riss in one of the most bizarre love stories every told.

The couple co-wrote a book in 1976 called A Very Different Love Story, and a movie was released in 2007 called Crazy Love.

During her courtship with Burt
During her courtship with Burt
In 1957
In 1957
Burt Pugach after the attack
Burt Pugach after the attack
Linda after the attack wearing the dark glasses she still wears
Linda after the attack wearing the dark glasses she still wears
Linda and Burt in the 70s
Linda and Burt in the 70s

Elisa Samson: Model and Gravy Wrestler

Elisa hit in the face with a wrench by Sabina English
Elisa hit in the face with a wrench by Sabina English

Attacked by Friends

Elisa Sampson was a model and gravy wrestling champion when her life was turned upside down after being hit in the eye with a wrench by her friend Sabina English.

Elisa slipped on the verge of suicide after her friend almost blinded her when she viciously hit her in the face with a monkey wrench.

The blow shattered her eye socket and caused serious and permanent damage to Elisa's left eye, along with gashing her upper lip. Elisa received surgery to repair her upper lip but her eye was left deformed.

Sabina has been sent to prison for two years but Elisa is still traumatized by the incident.

Sabina English became enraged when Elisa showed disgust at her for having sex with a man, Paul Greenwood, on her couch. Sabina, her brother Hussain, and Greenwood ganged up on Elisa in her own apartment.

The group had gotten together as friends for a party at the victim's apartment, and when Sabina went to her living room to have sex with Paul Greenwood, Elisa walked in and demanded that they knock it off. Greenwood grabbed her while Sabina hit her with a wrench while Hussain punched Elisa in the mid section.

Elisa is unaware of what happened next. She regained consciousness to find she could not see out of her right eye, and was bleeding profusely.

The victim ran to a neighbor's apartment to find help after her friends left her knocked out, bleeding, and blinded on her living room floor. The brutality of the incident is even more appalling because Elisa had been friends with her attackers since childhood.

After falling into a deep depression and contemplating suicide due to the fact that not only did her friends attack her and leave her for dead, but she was afraid of being scared for life.

Elisa discovered she was pregnant while in her most depressed state, and found a reason to live and move on with her life.

The Marla Hanson Story

Marla Hanson was born in Missouri and went to New York to begin a modeling career. She started out as a part-time model and quickly turned it into a full-time career.

In 1986 she rejected her landlord Steve Roth romantically and he hired two friends to slash Marla Hanson's face and ruin her chances of a modeling career.

Marla recovering from her razor attack
Marla recovering from her razor attack

Recovering With a Smile

Marla was in a bar when the men asked her to step outside. Looking back, Marla realizes that she should never have gone outside to talk. The men slashed Marla's face with a razor blade that left three large gashes that required surgery and more than 100 stitches.

Roth was found guilty of first degree assault for arranging the crime and was sentenced to 5 - 15 years and the two other attackers received the same punishment.

After the trial, Marla was so disgusted with the way she was treated in the court by the defense attorneys that she has since lobbied strongly for the rights of victims of violent crimes.

After plastic surgery, Marla has only one visible scar
After plastic surgery, Marla has only one visible scar

The Perfect Face for Dermablend Cosmetics

Hanson always had a strong and upbeat attitude after her attack. She did interviews while still in the hospital and a made-for-TV movie that was released in 1991 called Face Value, The Marla Hanson Story.

She was also helped by the well-known wealthy Republican Milton Petrie, who had amassed a fortune through his corporation. He gave Marla $20,000 per year for the rest of her life.

She always said that if she cannot model, there are other things to pursue. But, there was still a way to realize her dream as a model.

Dermablend was a new line of cover-up makeup that was just being launched at the time of Marla's attack and Marla Hanson was the perfect spokesmodel for the product.

Dermabled was no ordinary cosmetic. It was designed for people who have scars, birth marks, and discolorations to be able to cover up their flaws and feel confident in public.

Marla Hanson's story was well known, and her now practically flawless face boosted the sales of Dermablend. Marla was a model whose face made millions after all.

A spokesmodel for Dermablend cosmetics
A spokesmodel for Dermablend cosmetics

The whole country had seen Marla Hanson's beautiful face go trough a road map of stitches to a softened web of lines across her face. Now they were seeing her looking almost flawless with Dermablend makeup on her face.

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Comments 13 comments

Ana Maria 10 hours ago

my husband does reconstructive surgeries in NY, including face transplants, and i am amazed at how these patients who experience such traumatic events in their lives, bounce back even stronger than before. i see it in his patients that they get excited at the second chance in life they get after the surgeries. it is the first time i read about some of these stories and each of these women possess something special that has allowed them to live productive lives. kudos to them!

Experienced 11 months ago

I worked with a girl with a Muslim boyfriend a few years ago. He could not stand that she had a job and wanted her to be able to walk out when he told her to, but, she was working for a doctor and had to leave after the last patient. This guy screamed in the waiting room that he was her boss and she has to leave when he says so or else he would get a knife and slice up her face. Unfortunately, she stayed with him and was severely abused for years. She was really pretty but he did not want anyone to know it, so he forced her to wear Muslim gear. Terrible that this kind of thing is on the rise.

Skarlet profile image

Skarlet 4 years ago from California Author

Thank you conservative Lady.

I believe that she did marry him out of a feeling of desperation. She was blinded, lost her looks, (is never seen without glasses) and needed a caretaker. In short, the man's attack was a success for him. He got what he wanted. She stayed away from other men and married him.

Most of the other stories were not so sad though. :)

Thank you for commenting.

Conservative Lady profile image

Conservative Lady 4 years ago from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State

Skarlet this is such an interesting hub - we are amazing creatures to be able to bounce back from such a tragic experience - these women are true heroines for the inspiration they give others. I am so struck by the woman that married her attacker - such a sick and twisted relationship - I wonder if she felt that she could get no one else.... sad.

Voted Up, interesting and useful.

caltex profile image

caltex 4 years ago

When we see stories like these, many of us realize how blessed we are. Thanks for writing such a good article. Voted up!

Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

Excellent writing -- on such a tragic topic -- your article really brings to the front the amazing resiliency of human beings. Best/Sis

Skarlet profile image

Skarlet 4 years ago from California Author

Thank you Teaches12345,

I know its really nice to know that when its seems like the end of the world things can turn around for the better. You just never know what life has in store.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I was so drawn in by your topic and glad that I caught it before heading for bed. What a wonderful hub post! These people were able to overcome the negativity to carry on their lives to a better future. Thanks for sharing their stories and how beauty is more than what you see in a face.

ImKarn23 profile image

ImKarn23 4 years ago

This was a difficult article, Skarlet - you know that, tho! The best part for me are the smiles on these resilient women's faces as they are healing - not knowing what the outcome will be!

The stories where men were responsible for the disfigurement - which was all but 2? Unacceptable! Incredible! Cowardly!

Sooooo cowardly...

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Yes...yes, happy endings are extra special in cases of tragedy.. I agree.

Skarlet profile image

Skarlet 4 years ago from California Author

@Michele Travis- thank you. You are so right. My parents used to say that looks don't matter and that who you are is more important, but sadly children who do are not attractive are treated differently than good-looking kids, and by the time we are older our appearance has had a major impact on how we view ourselves.

Fpherj48- I know what you mean. I was not sure about writing it. But someone may find it useful in some way. I actually have always thought that the Leola Mae Harmon story was kind of sweet. She that she thought her life was over after her accident and three years later she was very presentable, with just a few scars, and marrying her surgeon.

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Skarlet...Although you have done your usual excellent job, making your hubs interesting and useful...I must confess, this one upset me. It's so difficult to know of these horror tales and see the results.....but I do know that realistically, these terrible things do happen. Thank heavens there are procedures to help repair damages as best as possible. UP+++

Michele Travis profile image

Michele Travis 4 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

This is a very interesting hub. It is amazing how our looks effect our lives. But, then look at kids in schools. The pretty ones get vote to be prom kings and queens. The ones who are not good looking get bullied. It is amazing how much we look on the outside affects how we feel on the inside.

Voted up.

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