Face lifts. Nose jobs. Thigh reductions. Breast enlargements. Fat suctions.
The idea is to look terrific, but for a time, the results of cosmetic surgery are not a pretty sight. Ugly swelling, discoloration, dangling tubes, bruises and skin-tight bandages are the most immediate results. Drinking through a straw or keeping the head still at night so as not to pop a stitch those first few days are standard.
In the past, recipients of plastic surgery had only the option of going home after a body rearrangement or shuttling from the surgeon's office to a hospital room, or perhaps to a convalescent home.
Now, a handful of private postoperative hideaways have taken root in Southern California. They are pamper palaces for the self-conscious and usually rich, healing resorts for the skin-weary. Moreover, they are a temporary refuge from the critical eyes of friends and family.
'A Place to Hide Out'
"It's a place to just hide out. We're here to pamper and cater," said Judy Gonzalez, service director at the newly opened La Cachette in Huntington Beach.
Pamper and cater, indeed.
For $200 a day (a private hospital room in Los Angeles County averages about $350 a day) patients get 24-hour care from registered nurses and sleep in electric massage beds in 21-by-23-foot rooms that contain refrigerators and sinks.
They dine off china with 24-karat gold trim and take their meals off silver tray sets. They sip drinks from crystal wine and champagne glasses.
A 1985 stretch limousine with full bar and television delivers them from the doctor's office and takes them home. When they're ready.
Fresh Flowers Daily
Fresh flowers are placed in each of the six rooms every morning. There's a remote-control TV, a telephone, French linens, comforters, pillows.
Gourmet meals are also provided as part of the cost of admission. "And they can eat whenever and whatever they want," Gonzales said. "They're just a phone call away from the kitchen. If they want a glass of brandy at midnight, they can have it."
La Cachette rests on the ground floor of a three-story building that also encompasses separate retirement housing. From their rooms, patients look out on a shady courtyard. In the middle of the yard is a small pond with ducks on it, and a makeshift waterfall tumbles between two small footbridges.
A trip to the cleaners, shopping, manicure, pedicure, or hairdo? No problem.
"I really got the works," Elaina Vaccaro, 32, who spent four days at La Cachette after a $2,300 fat suction operation, recalled.
No Hospital Smells
"You didn't even know you were recovering," said the Irvine mother of two children. "Hospitals smell, you know. They're awful."
"I can't think of anything we won't do for a patient," said Teri Black, director of the Ridgeley House near Beverly Hills (where about 60 plastic surgeons practice), another round-the-clock retreat for elective surgery patients almost identical in service to La Cachette.
"A lot of them get strange cravings for food while they're recovering," Black said. "I had one who wanted chocolate mousse at 3 a.m., and I remember going out to get one woman a broad-brimmed hat so she could wear it home."
The Ridgeley House, which can take up to 12 patients, charges $185 a day and caters to a wealthy, theatrical clientele.
"We get a lot of famous authors. Some stay for weeks. And lots of actresses have been here who are in recovering from breast augmentations," Black said.
Many Surgeons' Wives
"And yes, we also get many plastic surgeons' wives," Black said, adding that she could not divulge the names of any notable patients.
One wealthy Hollywood family, she said, recently brought their four young children to the Ridgeley to recuperate after having their ears pinned back.
The average stay at both homes is three to five days, and most patients, typically high-income professionals, pay in cash or check. Calls are screened if patients ask for it, and arrangements can be made for the husband or wife to spend the night if they choose to.
"It's wonderful (working at the Ridgeley) because they're not sick," Black said. "They're just here to heal."