Conrado Ramos Estrada had become used to wearing a face mask even before the COVID pandemic began. That’s because his nose had grown so bulbous that he chose to hide it from the world.
“They would stare at me,” Estrada, 57, told the New York Post. “Children would ask their mothers what happened to me — and I would get around it by using a face mask all the time.”
The painter and construction laborer from Porchester, New York, also struggled to eat, breathe, and speak because of his oversized nose. It had reached his lips, and whenever he would take a bite when he ate, the growth would come in contact with the spoon.
Luckily, Estrada is no longer a prisoner of his oversized sniffer. His friends and family can now finally see him smiling, thanks to a kind surgeon who helped him!
Dr. Thomas Romo, the director of facial plastic reconstructive surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, met Estrada when the latter showed up at his home with a paint crew about five months ago.
“This was a bad one,” Dr. Romo said of the growth, which appeared as if Estrada had a male appendage on his nose, according to the doctor’s honest description.
“It was a smoldering infection … and it would have just kept going,” he said.
Dr. Romo couldn’t just let Estrada leave that day, so he pulled him aside to tell him about his observation.
“He saw me, and he gave me a hug,” Estrada recalled of their meeting. “He said, ‘I’m going to help you.’”
As it turns out, Estrada’s disfigured nose was caused by rhinophyma. Individuals with this condition have thickened, pitted, and pimpled skin at the tip of their noses due to enlarged oil glands.
It’s unknown what causes rhinophyma, although it has been classified as a form of rosacea, an inflammatory skin disease.
The condition is rare and is predominantly seen in men. It usually starts to develop in mid-life and can grow unchecked without surgery.
“I had spent six years seeing doctors and skin specialists and nothing would get better,” Estrada said.
There is also no efficient treatment for rhinophyma. In extreme cases like Estrada’s, surgery was the only way to bring his nose back to its normal size.
“I hadn’t seen a rhinophyma in maybe 20 years. This has to be affecting his life, his relationship with other people … and his ability to get work, and [his] self-esteem,” said Dr. Romo, who performed Estrada’s nose operation.
This isn’t the first time that Dr. Romo has performed pro bono surgeries. He has done it plenty of times through his Little Baby Face Foundation, which aims to provide surgery to underserved children with facial deformities.
“Not many people know how to fix this thing,” he said.
Estrada only had to wait a few days and sign some forms before going in for his surgery. Now, he’s back to work and living his life—more confident and happier than ever.
“You’d think he won an Olympic gold medal,” Dr. Romo said of Estrada’s photos post-operation. “Chest is out, face’s out, he’s a smiley guy. I feel great for him!”
Dr. Romo said that confidence makes “a better and more productive person in society.”
“I’m doing everything I can to help my community. I want this community to flourish,” he added.
Estrada said his loved ones had “enormous” reactions when they saw his new nose.
“I believe God sent an angel to take care of me — and that’s how I see Dr. Romo,” he said.
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