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Judy’s consultation at Plastic Surgery Austin had been even better than expected. After a grueling year that included a car wreck, spinal surgery, debilitating complications and a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, she felt something she hadn’t in a long time: hope.

“I was so impressed with Dr. Sharma and his whole staff,” Judy says. “I think he’s the greatest. He really cared, and he listened completely to my story. Sarah, his nurse, and Jordan, his physician assistant, were both so awesome. They were right there with him every step of the way.”

Only one thing now stood between Judy and the next chapter of her life.


Judy’s diagnosis was twofold. She had diastasis recti, a separation of the left and right abdominal muscles that results in a protruding stomach and functional pelvic floor issues. She also had a hiatal hernia, which occurs when the upper part of the stomach bulges up into the chest through an opening in the diaphragm. Both conditions could not be fixed without surgery.

“I was told that diastasis recti was most common with women who had a c-section or multiple childbirths,” Judy explains. “In researching, I found out that insurance would not pay for this type of repair. Apparently, it is thought that if you have given birth at any point, you could have already had this condition, which [they] consider cosmetic.”

Judy is a mother of two, but she knew her situation was different. She’d had no issues prior to the car accident, and her children were now old enough to have children of their own. She would have struggled for years if pregnancy was the cause of her diastasis recti. 

Unfortunately, her insurance company saw it differently.

“My insurance balked every step of the way. I got several denials on it. After the last one, I was so frustrated I sent them a three-page letter explaining what was happening and how it was different than regular diastasis recti. They didn’t go for it. In their response, I could tell they had not even read my letter. I was so put out.”

Judy and her husband decided the surgery needed to happen immediately, whether or not there would be any financial assistance. The weeks-long battle was over. Insurance would cover the surgery for the hiatal hernia, but it would not cover any of the abdominal repair. There was no time left to wait.


Judy approached the day of her surgery with the fortitude and fierce determination she’d maintained since the accident. Though she wondered at times whether going through a major surgical procedure would be dangerous at her age, her husband assured her it was the right decision.

“He said you have to get this done, you’re too active, you can’t be like this for the rest of your life,” Judy says. “I knew I didn’t have a choice. It was either that or be miserable for the rest of my life.”

Judy’s fears faded. She felt calm the night before the procedure and confident in the decisions that led her to Plastic Surgery Austin.

“I didn’t have any doubts about having surgery. [My husband and I] both felt so confident in Dr. Sharma,” she says. “I wasn’t sure what my end result would look like, but I knew without a doubt that it would be so much better than what it was.”

Judy spent six hours in surgery. She woke up to her husband watching over her in the recovery room and a surprise from Dr. Sharma.

“I actually felt pretty good, considering,” she recalls. “I got to see a video of part of the surgery, which was super interesting. I couldn’t believe it was me lying there. We saw Dr. Sharma testing the muscles in my stomach. On the right side, the muscles would jump. But on the left side, nothing was happening.”

Dr. Sharma warned Judy that her left abdominal muscles may never regain function. The nerves were too damaged from her spinal surgery. She would have to learn to compensate for the loss, but considering all she stood to gain once she recuperated — her yoga practice, tending to her garden, playtime with her grandchildren, comfort and peace of mind — it was worth it.


Judy’s spinal surgery prepared her well for recovery. This time around, she knew what to anticipate in the coming weeks and what she could do to make the healing period safer and more comfortable. 

“The whole thing was easier than I expected,” she says. “I was expecting two weeks of misery, but I didn’t have that. I already knew how to roll out of bed without pulling too many muscles from the back surgery. I stretched out the pain meds and was able to get off them really quick.”

Dr. Sharma instructed Judy to wear a compression binder for three months and maintain a special diet for eight weeks. In the first week, she was limited to liquids and simple foods like broth and Jello. She has slowly been adding more complex foods back into her diet, and looks forward to celebrating the end of the eight weeks with Mexican food.

“It’s a long process to get back to eating normally. That’s been the worst part. I’ve been hungry for five or six weeks! The upside is I’ve lost a few pounds,” she jokes. 

At the first post-op appointment after her surgery, Judy learned about the adjustments she would have to make going forward. Though she was making good progress in her recovery, the muscles that had atrophied were unlikely to work again, so she would need to build up strength in other areas.

But Judy’s astonishing story had one more surprise in store. 

“During the week before the second pre-op appointment, I was feeling movement in that left side. I thought it was my imagination,” she remembers. “At that appointment, Dr. Sharma quickly noticed that I had indeed used those muscles in my left side. Miraculously, the nerves ended up repairing themselves after Dr. Sharma reconnected them. With some physical therapy, I’m going to be fine. I can’t tell you how excited and blessed I feel for this to have happened.”

“Today, I feel amazing. I can’t believe how well everything went. I’m totally amazed with Dr. Sharma’s work and results.”

In the final part of her story, Judy discusses the exciting progress she’s made, her advice for other patients and her new perspective on plastic surgery. Thank you, Judy, for sharing your inspiring journey with us!

Continue to Part IV


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