Sultan of Skin

Flesh insight from an esteemed St. Louis plastic surgeon

After checking on a pot of red beans and rice and taking a seat on the edge of a leather chair, Young reflects on the most difficult cases of his near-30-year career. There was the little lady whom he had to scalp to get rid of a disfiguring cancer. The older woman with exposed brain who would have suffered a stroke had he made the wrong split-second decision. The lung-cancer victim he treated and gets a Christmas card from each year.

"Did I tell you about the little lady and man who couldn't have intercourse?" he abruptly asks.

The Iowa couple came to Young over a year ago. The wife's vulva, remembers Young, was shrunken and tightened after radiation for cancer.

Liposuction is  the most popular cosmetic surgery nationwide.
Jennifer Silverberg
Liposuction is the most popular cosmetic surgery nationwide.
Master skin sculptors: C.B. Boswell, Leroy Young, Rob Centeno.
Jennifer Silverberg
Master skin sculptors: C.B. Boswell, Leroy Young, Rob Centeno.

Young performed a skin graft to the vulva, which seemed to do the trick for a while. But several months later the woman's cancer reappeared, and again, she was out of sexual commission. The couple came back to Creve Coeur, desperate.

"Even though they were in their sixties, sex was really important to this couple," Young recounts. "They were like a little pair from a Winslow Homer painting, or straight out of a Rockwell. We tried everything to get them going — surgeries, medicines. And nothing worked. I was just about ready to tell them we were at the end of the rope, and I was trying to figure out how to do it, when she says: 'Listen, doctor, isn't there anything else you can do?'

"Into my head popped the drug DSMO. It increases blood flow. It's a topical drug, and I had a bit of it on my desk, and I saw it.

"Two months later they came back all smiles. I said: 'How'd it go?' They said: 'We're able to have full penetration.' They gave me a huge hug and went on their way."

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