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Judy’s life was at a standstill. She couldn’t work in her garden. She couldn’t attend hatha yoga classes. She couldn’t play ball with her grandchildren or walk her dogs. Her car accident and spinal surgery hadn’t just left her with physical pain, they had robbed her of the activities she loved most and left her feeling hopeless.

The root of her problem, an abdomen muscle separation condition called diastasis recti, could only be solved with another surgery. Judy was hesitant. She was told she should see a plastic surgeon, but the idea was off-putting. Plastic surgery is just for people who want to look better… isn’t it?

Judy’s journey was about to take a surprising turn.


Like many people, Judy had a particular image of plastic surgery. It was facelifts and breast implants and nose jobs. It was something for the rich and famous — or at least for the famously vain. And it definitely wasn’t for her.

“I knew I needed to find a good plastic surgeon,” Judy says, “but I was hesitant to see one because I thought they were only for aesthetic purposes. Never in my life did I ever plan to have a procedure like this. I’ve always felt like I would and should keep things the way God gave them to me — natural.”

The surgery she needed was an abdominoplasty, also known as a tummy tuck. Most descriptions of the procedure focus on its cosmetic benefits, especially for people who have lost weight and mothers who want to restore their midsection after childbearing. Judy struggled to see herself represented in this narrative, but as she continued to research, she discovered that there is more to plastic surgery than its popular portrayal.

“One of my friends commented, ‘Oh, you’re going to get a free tummy tuck! Insurance is going to pay for a tummy tuck!’” she remembers. “Like everybody else, I had in my mind that plastic surgery is cosmetic — people don’t realize all the things plastic surgeons really do. This opened my eyes. Hopefully it will open other people’s eyes also.”

Abdominoplasty could repair Judy’s diastasis recti. While it could also improve the unsightly bulge she’d developed in her lower abdomen, appearances were a secondary concern. What Judy really wanted was to get her quality of life back. So she started researching plastic surgeons.


Judy left no stone unturned in her search. She created an exhaustive list of plastic surgeons located in the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Waco areas, then began investigating every mention of them she could find online.

“Step one of finding a plastic surgeon was to get online and search,” she says. “I must have gone through hundreds of names. I took detailed notes from their websites, Healthgrades and any other rating site or information available. I recognized some names of individuals giving reviews, so I contacted them and asked questions.”

One thing stood out as particularly helpful as she tried to get to know the doctors.

“A lot of them had a video [on their website]. I’m a school teacher, so I can read people really well. I have good instincts about that. I watched the videos really carefully and that opened my eyes to different things.”

After ruling out many candidates, Judy was left with a list of 50 names. She and her husband separately reviewed the remaining surgeons and narrowed down their top five.

“When we compared, it was pretty much the same names we came up with,” Judy says. “We then put them in order of who we thought would be best. BOTH of us choose Dr. Sanjay Sharma. This was based on many criteria that we thought were important for a doctor to have.”


When Judy and her husband arrived for her consultation at Plastic Surgery Austin, they wondered whether the surgeon they were about to meet would live up to the surgeon they’d seen online. They were not disappointed.

“I’d read all about Dr. Sharma and even watched a video of him on his website — but in person he is so much better,” she says. “He was so considerate, compassionate, confident, thorough and knowledgeable. He listened very intently to what I was saying. I felt like he totally understood my complicated problem and how I was feeling about it all.”

Dr. Sharma’s examination confirmed the diastasis recti problem. It also revealed something no other specialist had seen: a large hiatal hernia. He informed Judy that he and a colleague could take care of both issues during one surgery.

“For the first time, a doctor was able to tell me exactly what was going on in a way that I could understand,” Judy recalls. “He explained that after the spinal access surgery, some of the nerves in my abdomen area had atrophied and gave away, thus causing the bulge. He mentioned that there would still most likely be some bulge left due to the severity of the problem. I was okay with that; I knew it was a bad situation. I just wanted to be comfortable again and get on with my life finally.”

Judy had initially scheduled consultations with several plastic surgeons to receive multiple perspectives. She knew immediately after her appointment with Dr. Sharma that she was going to cancel them.

“On the way out, I told my husband that Dr. Sharma was the one. I didn’t need more opinions — I needed to be fixed by someone that knew what he was doing,” she says.

Judy and her husband both felt confident in the decision. At long last, the problem was identified and the path forward was clear. But one final hurdle was about to appear…

“I knew I didn’t have a choice. It was either [surgery] or be miserable for the rest of my life.”

Judy’s road to surgery wasn’t as smooth as she’d hoped, but with reassurance from Dr. Sharma, encouragement from her husband and the fierce determination she’d maintained since the accident, she pressed ahead. A new life was nearly in sight.

Continue to Part 3


Contact our office to schedule a private consultation with Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, Sanjay K. Sharma, M.D., F.A.C.S.