By MIKAELA CONLEY
After cosmetic eyelid surgery left her incapable of fully closing her eyes, Marilyn Leisz said her life has been thrown into shambles.
After suing her New Jersey plastic surgeon, a jury on Wednesday awarded Leisz $115,000 -- an amount Leisz called "a joke."
"The award given to me can't anywhere touch what has happened with my eyes," said Leisz of her medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Paul Parker, a cosmetic surgeon in Paramus, N.J..
"I'm not happy with the decision," she said. "They didn't take into consideration what I go through every day. I expected around $500,000.
"But even with that, nothing can really make up for it," she said. "You can't put a price on your eyes."
In a statement, Parker said: "As a board certified plastic surgeon, over the past 25 years I have performed more than 10,000 surgical procedures. Our practice is centered on compassion, attention-to-detail and superior patient care."
"We have thousands of happy patients who voice their satisfaction through the personal letters they send us and countless, unprompted positive reviews and testimonials they post online."
Leisz has had two other eye procedures in the past. The first was meant to fix a congenital condition known as ptosis, where the muscles are not strong enough to hold up the lid, thus creating a droopy eyelid. The second was cosmetic.
Blepharoplasty Gone Bad
In 2005, Leisz went to Parker to fix the second cosmetic eye surgery. She had small bumps along her eyelid creases from the procedure. Leisz said Parker initially gave her Scarguard, a cream that would help smooth the skin.
"I was satisfied with the results," she said. "But he told me that I could not see what he could see, and I'd be very unhappy with the way I looked in a few years. He told me I needed surgery."
He performed a blepharoplasty, an eyelid surgery meant to give a rejuvenated appearance to the surrounding area of the eye and make a person look rested and more alert.
When asked if she thought she should have questioned Parker, Leisz said: "He's the doctor. I trusted him. You're supposed to count on your doctor that they're being honest and truthful and not worrying about their own pocketbook."
But Parker had a different view.
"We are a reputable practice with a solid track record," Parker said in his statement. "This is based on our commitment not only to patient care but to pre-surgical counseling."
Since surgery, Leisz cannot fully close her eyes. She uses steroid drops and creams to lubricate her eyes and wears a mask over her face at night to prevent scratching her corneas.
Leisz said she is at high risk of getting glaucoma and potentially going blind because of the overexposure of her eyes.
She has visited a Pennsylvania eye specialist 45 times and has had 30 surgeries in five years in attempts to reverse the cosmetic surgery results.
Leisz said she has not been able to have a full life and participate in her favorite hobbies, such as swimming, gardening and tennis, because of her condition.
"From the minute I wake up, I have to worry about my eyes," said Leisz. "They're bloodshot and dry and feel like someone is always pinching them."
"I'm pretty much a blind person," she added. "I'm very worried about the health and deterioration of my eyesight."
The jury began deliberating the case last week.
Parker's lawyer told the jury that Parker presented Leisz with a standard consent form, with the warnings and risks of the procedure. But Leisz said Parker never went over the risks, except for some swelling and bruising after the first few days of surgery.
As he said in his statement, Parker is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Board certified plastic surgeons are required to help patients understand the risks of any surgery.
"The Center considers presurgical counseling as important as the surgery itself and conducts extensive interviews with all prospective patients," Parker said. "We never overlook this vital step."
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there were 13.1 million cosmetic procedures and 208,764 eyelid surgeries done in the United States in 2010.
"With all the money plastic surgeons are making, you wouldn't think there is so much prejudice out there of cosmetic procedures," said Leisz, referring to negative comments made in online stories that have covered the trial.
"Ultimately, patients do assume some risk in choosing to have these procedures and doctors need to operate on the right people for the right reasons," said Dr. John Millard, president of Millard Plastic Surgery Center in Denver, who is not involved with the case.
"It appears that too much skin was re-sected from her upper eyelids," added Millard. "It is a risk of the blepharoplasty procedure. It is commonly covered in the consent, assuming the doctor used a standard consent."
Doctors Weigh In
Leisz's attorney played a video for the jury of another doctor who weighed in on the procedure. The physician said Leisz