Not just a cosmetic story

Christine Brown, of Invercargill, at home with husband Lee on Monday, nearly four weeks after face reconstruction at ...
Robyn Edie

Christine Brown, of Invercargill, at home with husband Lee on Monday, nearly four weeks after face reconstruction at Dunedin Hospital.

​EDITORIAL: Christine Brown is coping, as best a strong woman can, with extravagant facial pain and disconcerting numbness.

It would seem only fair if they cancelled each other out to some extent but, unhappily, life doesn't always work like that.

Right now the Southlander is being sorely tested after her massive reconstruction operation to engineer some uplift for the right side of her face which has been subsided since her childhood.

She's hardly a stranger to trials of her body and spirit so when this stoic, resilient woman says that after nearly a month she's feeling a bit sorry for herself it speaks volumes about what she's enduring

Here's the thing. The wider public reaction hasn't been merely confined to well-wishing in the hope of a satisfying  yarn about an extreme makeover.

Many people have reacted not with easily-summonsed sympathy and encouragement, but with open admiration.

They're recognising an already beautiful family dynamic between Christine, her husband of more than three decades Lee, and their children.

Not of the flash, attention-seeking sort but constant, sometimes careworn, loving support that helps carry so many people through times of tribulation, even when one or more of them might be having a hell of a time.

Then there's the small matter of her own personality. She has developed empathy forged in part through the sometimes brutal bullying she grew up with.

This, in turn, has led to work that tended to be in the role of dispensing care (which is, weirdly, often not the best preparation for people who find themselves needing it). She once said that her face was just part of "the shell we live in" and stood in front of her then 12-year-old daughter Farrin's class to help them understand that behind first appearances she had a working heart and feelings.

Prior to her latest operation her surgeon Matthew Leaper described her as both pragmatic and courageous: "We could all learn a lot from her". Even now, in the midst of a recovery that is proving far more challenging than even she had anticipated, she is disinclined towards self-pity.

Her part-time job working at the Southland Stroke Club isn't waiting for her due to reduced demand from declining numbers, but she pronounces herself not too worried about that because for now she wants to concentrate on healing.

Her ear isn't going to survive the process but "I think I look pretty cool". She still trusts the numbness will go away but even if it doesn't "I will still be me".

Exactly right. But hers is not simply a story of hardship. It has many uplifts, not the least of which is that it's quite a neat wee love story.


 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback