Facelift with Dr. Lev - Costa Rica

I am headed to Costa Rica in May for a facelift...

I am headed to Costa Rica in May for a facelift with Dr. Lev. I will be staying at a new recovery place called Verdeza. It is in the city close to CIMA. I am having my surgery at the hospital rather than the clinic. Just a personal choice. I have read reviews and looked at pictures and I am confident in my decision to have Dr. Lev as my surgeon. I traveled to Mexico at the end of last year for a breast reduction and liposuction and had a great experience. I wrote a separate review for that. Anyway, I am now prepping for Costa Rica. I know all the standards to take as far as laxative, sleeping meds, etc. If anyone has any advice about things to bring I would appreciate it. The last time my daughter went with me and this time I am going it alone. A little scary. I will post before and after pictures eventually. It's funny that I had no problems with posting my boobs and belly, but I am more hesitant about posting my face. No because of confidentiality, but because I really hate the jowls, turkey neck and all deep circles under my eyes! But I do want to post so that others can learn the way I did. So, maybe next time.

The dreaded before pictures

My before pictures......I really dislike them. I wear glasses all the time because I am blind without them, but I won't even consider contacts with those horrible valleys under my eyes!! The glasses help hide them! Ready to get this done! That turkey neck.....seriously?

Chemical peel

So I went in for a consult for microdermabrasion and ended up getting a chemical peel....Yikes! Just got back and I feel great right now. Face is a little pink, but that's all. I'll post some pictures over the next few days so we can watch the process. I haven't had this done before....so.......don't know.

Counting down!

A little over a month to go! I can't believe it is getting that close. My daughter graduates from grad school May 2 in Florida. I will be flying back to Texas from Florida on the 3rd and will then fly out from Dallas on the 4th. I have surgery on the 5th! Crazy schedule! So, just a word of advice for those of you who may be going to get you lab work done there. I was going to have my labs there because I am fairly sure they are good as I just had lipo/breast reduction in December and all was good then. I am staying at Verdeza and they can actually do all of the labs there in their building for much less that what I will pay here. However, because I am not flying the day BEFORE my consultation, there wasn't enough time to get the results by my consultation time with Dr. Lev. So I will be getting the labs here. I can still get the EKG there as those results are immediate. So....if you want to get labs there, go a day earlier.

I actually found a fairly inexpensive way to get the labs done here without having to go in to see the physician. You all may have known about it, but I didn't. They actually have places on the internet where you can order whatever tests you want without a physician's order, then you go to a designate lab and have the blood drawn or UA taken. They have your results in a couple of days. So, I have that scheduled next week.
So, I thought I would post a picture of me with makeup and hair did... so I can compare the same post procedure. I will keep everyone updated as I go along!


I landed in Costa Rica at around 11:30 this morning. I had to get up at 1:30 am this morning in order to get to Dallas to catch the first flight...so I am tired. Anyway, Carlos from Verdeza was at the airport holding a sign with my name on it. It took a while to get through customs...so he was there for a good while. Carlos contracts out himself and his employees as drivers for Verdeza. He is fluent in English, extraordinarily funny and a very upbeat person. He drove me to Verdeza. Everything was ready for me at the desk and I was immediately checked in. A nurse showed me to my room where there was a nice guest basket waiting for me. The room is so large and is very nice. It has a fridge, microwave and a small stove top. There is a recliner, a sofa and a small dining table. The bathroom is nice and large. The whole place is nice and modern. Alejandra came to my room to meet me and showed me around the place. There is phone in the room for free, unlimited international calls. Thank goodness for that, because I couldn't get my cell to work initially and I had to let everyone know I was ok. I had an EKG done at 1PM at Verdeza by their physician. It took about 10 minutes and cost 40.00. Carlos picked me up at 3:00 pm and took me to my appointment with Dr. Lev. Dr. Lev is as nice and genuine as everyone says he is. He explained everything and we decided to add upper eyelids. It was 475.00 additional (I was in the discount group), otherwise it would have been 500.00. He wrote admission orders for CIMA hospital and wrote prescriptions for antibiotic and pain meds. I could have gotten the prescriptions filled at Verdeza, but Carlos was nice enough to stop at a pharmacy that he is familiar so I could be some water and I had them filled there. I don't know the cost because I haven't done the conversion and I don't feel like doing math right now. I will do it later and post the cost of the meds. Dr. Lev is very personable and easy to speak with. He took some before pictures and I was ready to go.
A note about Dr. Levs office. I read somewhere that there someone complained about Dr. Lev's office. I honestly don't know why. His office is very nice. It is clean and looks very professional. His receptionist called me by name as soon as I walked in. Someone made a comment about his blinds being yellow....that's because they ARE yellow..... as in the color yellow. Anyway, I don't know what that was about. But I have had a great experience so far....but it is just the beginning. I am going to CIMA in the morning at 5:30 am. I will post pictures as soon as I am able. Headed down to eat dinner.


I am finished and back at Verdeza. Feeling good, just minor pain around the ears and neck. Stayed over night at CIMA hospital with a private nurse who was amazing. Thank you all so much for your well wishes. I deeply appreciate it. Posting a couple of pics from day of surgery and day after. Will continue to update my stay.

Try pictures again

It wouldn't let me upload pictures....trying again

Helmet off!

Got the helmet off....emphasis on HELL....that thing is atrocious! So relieved to have it off and just the ace bandage now. Dr Lev removed stitches from my eyes and some around my ears and the one under my chin. Everything is looking good. He said the wonky eye is swelling and not to worry about it..so will keep an eye on that. It is already getting better. Chewing is painful, but easier without the helmet. I am just taking the NSAID for pain. Dr. Lev prescribed tramadol, but it doesn't agree with me. Makes me itchy and a little crazy. So I have been fine without it. Verdeza has been great so far. I have ordered room service for every meal and it has been great. The nurses come around and check blood pressure, temp, HR etc. Everyone here is extremely friendly and helpful. Carlos the driver is fantastic. Always early for our trips. Always right there to pick me up. No complaints so far. Tomorrow I get to wash my hair.....YES!

Day 3 and 4

Feeling better this morning. Yesterday evening I had some pretty good pain in my neck and around my ears. It is better this morning. My eyes are still very swollen, but better than yesterday. Of course, my neck is tight as is expected. I have posted some pictures. Bruising is very minimal at this point. My face is ridiculously round and swollen, but the neckline is much better. Patiently waiting for the swelling to get better. My hair is a mess.....there is no possible way to fix it. It even has some blue coloring in it (not sure where that came from). So it looks like a very bad bowl cut for the 20s! Anyway, doing well, and wanted to keep everyone updated. Thanks for all of your encouraging thoughts and words.

Looking a little more normal

Still lots of swelling, but looking a little more like myself. I find someone completely different looking back in the mirror, but my fiancée and daughter say it still looks like me but younger. Going tomorrow for a check-up and more stitch removals. Thanks for the continued support.

post op day 6

I went back to Dr. Lev today and he removed the stitches from around my ears. I will go back on Saturday to have all of the remaining sutures and staples removed. Swelling hasn't changed any. Continue to have the tightness in the neck. So, right after surgery I had no pain, I was just a little uncomfortable. I didn't even take any pain medication in the hospital at all. The day after, I had minimal pain, and then day 2, 3, 4 the pain was more intense. But the most intense pain I have had has been on the upper tip of my right ear. The funny thing is, there isn't any incision, stitch or staple there. Just my healthy ear. In the medical world we call this referred pain and it is very common in the abdomen. Just never thought about it happening on the ear. The pain is actually originating from somewhere other than the place you feel it. It was really bad this morning every time I stood up. However, when Dr. Lev removed the stitches, it stopped. So, I have had a very comfortable day without the tip of the ear pain. Otherwise, just fullness. I posted a few pictures, including pictures of Dr. Lev's office.

Day 8

There hasn't been a lot change over the last couple of days. Swelling is going down slowly but surely. Pain has been minimal except when chewing. I did 30 minutes on the stationary bike today and tolerated that well. There was a funny incident with breakfast this morning. I ordered an omelet with cheese and mushrooms with toast. I was in the bathroom when they brought it in and when I sat down to eat, it was a cheeseburger with french fries and a plate of fruit. In their defense, the cheeseburger did have mushrooms and cheese on it! I guess it got lost in translation. It made me smile and I had a unique breakfast. They would have corrected it if I would have called, but it looked so good I had to eat it. I posted a couple of new pictures (including my breakfast), but there really hasn't been much change.

Post op day 9

There isn't much to update. I just wanted to post a couple of progress pictures. I still have swelling and tightness but it is getting better. The left side is more swollen than the right. I did 30 minutes on the treadmill today. No problems with that. I am ready to get out of here and head home, but still have a few days to go.

Post op day 10

Things remain pretty steady. The swelling is about the same on the sides of my face and neck. I feel great with very little pain except with chewing. Especially on the left side. Tomorrow I go get the remaining sutures and stitches out, then home on Sunday. So excited to go home!

Post op day 11

I had all sutures and staples removed this morning by Dr. Lev. It was not painful and the release of pressure is great! I leave CR tomorrow and head back to Texas. I am SOOOOO ready to go home. I will continue to update periodically as I continue with healing. I won't bore you with any further pictures today as nothing has changed. Good day!

Back in Texas

I made it back to my home around 12:30 am after flight delays and drive time from the airport! It was a very long day and I am so glad to be home safely. Just a note for those of you leaving Costa Rica. There is a $29.00 tax everyone must pay before leaving the airport. I have no idea what it is for and didn't know I needed to wait in that long line to pay it. So, I waited in my airlines long line, only to be told to go and wait in the tax paying long line, then back to the airline long line. Luckily I got to the airport 3 hours early! Anyway, just a heads up on that. Flying was fine. I did not have any problems with pain or swelling. I wore a hoodie the whole time, except when security asked me to take it off. I wasn't sure how much of the behind the ears , and other sutures you could see because my hair is super, super short. It guess it was ok....so one stared at me like I was Frankenstein. Honestly, only a tiny line of bruising left under 1 eye on my face. The sides of my face are still swelled, but if you don't know me you wouldn't notice. Felt great getting home.
Thank you all again for all of your support. This website has been everything to me and continues to help me answer questions I have on a daily basis. I am going to continue to post my healing process over the next year so that everyone can see changes, complications and final outcome. I also want to post something specifically about Dr. Lev and the surgical process when I get a chance...just so others considering Dr. Lev may know. Thank you all!

Two weeks

Two weeks ago today.....Crazy!! I can't believe it has been two weeks. Yesterday I ran around all day doing errands, bought a new car and ate salty Mexican food..... and I felt it this morning. My face left side was more swollen and my neck felt tighter. But I drank a lot of water and rested a little bit and it got better as the day went on. I went to see if I am a candidate for lasik surgery and I am (yes!!) So I am going to do that in a few weeks. I want my eyes to be completely healed first. I am feeling good...no problems so far. I have posted a picture from yesterday (5/18) when I was in the car in the dreaded natural light and one from this morning. I haven't seen anyone other than my fiancée yet, so I don't know if anyone will notice!

My surgical experience.....CIMA Hospitao, Dr. Lev, Dr. Greenwood

I wanted to dedicate a separate post to the actual surgical experience so that anyone interested would not have to read through all of the other posts. First, let me say that I have never had surgery in the US. The only other surgery I had was in Mexico (lipo, breast reduction). However, I am a registered nurse and I work in a hospital in the US. So that is what I am basing my opinion of CIMA and nursing care on.

I had a consultation with Dr. Lev the day I arrived in Costa Rica. I went to his office which happens to be in a nice 2 or 3 story shopping center, comparable to our malls, but smaller. There was a post somewhere that indicated Dr. Lev's office was dirty with yellowing, broken blinds and a dirty coffee pot. That is not true. His blinds are yellow/gold because that is the color they are meant to be. They are vertical blinds that cover large interior windows and are cloth covered. They were not dirty, broken or in anyway tacky. I sat directly beside the coffee pot. It was perfectly clean - if fact I couldn't tell it had ever been used. The office is clean in every way. I posted a picture of his office. So... there you go.
His office manager knew who I was immediately and was very warm and welcoming. I went in immediately and talked with Dr. Lev. He listened to what I wanted, answered questions and we decided upon a plan. Dr. Lev is personable, patient and just a nice man.
The next morning I went to CIMA hospital at 6:00 a.m. CIMA is a Joint Commission accredited hospital. The Joint Commission develops performance standards for hospitals in the United States. In order to be accredited, the hospital must meet these standards. I got there at about 5:30. The admission person spoke perfect English, paperwork was signed. I paid a 1,000.00 deposit with a credit card (they do not take cash or checks), gave him my cell phone, credit cards and cash and he sealed it in a bag and locked it up. By 6:00 am I was headed back to pre-op. A nurse came and got me. She spoke better English than I did. She had me get into a gown and asked all the medical history, medication questions, etc that you get when you go into a hospital in the US. Then, another physician came by and introduced herself, again in perfect English, and asked some of the same questions. She told me Dr. Greenwood and Dr. Lev would be by to see me prior to surgery.
Dr. Greenwood came by first. He is hilarious. He had me laughing and I completely forgot about any nerves I may have had. He explained everything to me. He started an IV. He said he would be administering an anti-inflammatory and pain medication through the IV prior to surgery so that those two things would be better controlled after surgery. He said he would administer an anti-nausea medication prior to my waking to control any nausea. I told him I previously had terrible nausea after anesthesia and he said not to worry because he will administer the same medication given to cancer patients who had nausea. He said he would be in the room with me throughout the surgery that he would not leave my side even to go to the bathroom. He discussed pain and pain management and assured me they would not let me suffer with pain after the surgery. He went through the medications available from NSAIDS to morphine. He said most people have a pain level at 2-3 after surgery. He told me a catheter would be put in after I was asleep. He continued making me and everyone else laugh and told me the nurse would give me a pill that would help maintain my blood pressure and a shot in the butt that would relax me and help him to initiate anesthesia. He answered all my questions, then kissed me on the forehead before he left. I can't say enough about him and his bedside manner and his calm approach. I had complete confidence in him and zero nerves after meeting him.
Dr. Lev came in and we went through everything again. He asked about my comfort and offered to get me a warm blanket. Again, just a nice person. He reassured me that all would be well and told me the surgery would be about 4 hours.
The nurse came and gave me the pill and the shot in the butt (that hurt a little). I remember lying there thinking "that was an IM injection, so it should take effect in about 20 mintues"......and I was out. I have no memory of being transferred to the OR or anything else until I woke up in recovery.
This is the most important part of the story to me.....when I had surgery in Mexico I woke up so nauseated, I immediately asked for something to throw up in. I never threw up, but for a few hours I was on the verge.....I had the bucket handy and it was overwhelming. In Mexico I also woke up FREEZING!!!!....rigors and all. They immediately gave me warm blankets, but I though I would never get warm again!!!!
In Costa Rica I woke up with ABSOLUTELY NO nausea. Not even a twinge.
Also, I was wrapped in a warming device that had puffy air bags that felt like warm clouds. I was so comfortable that I was annoyed by the nurse asking me if I had pain. I was like.."no, go away and let me enjoy my fluffy warm clouds". Hopefully I didn't say that, but that is how I felt.
I was asked several times about pain, but I honestly didn't have any. I was taken to a large, private room in the hospital and the nurses started putting the cool packs on my eyes. Again, everyone spoke English. I was given a call light and instructed to call if I needed anything. I requested my cell phone and it, along with everything else was brought to me by security. He looked scarred to death to see me and said he hoped I felt better soon (so sweet). Before long the nurse that Dr. Lev hired came and she took complete control. She was on top of everything and by the book. The only time the hospital nurses came in after she arrived was to take my vital signs and that was every 4 hours. At around 7PM she said I needed to get up and walk. She instructed me on exactly what to do and how to do it.....which is exactly how I would have managed my own patient. We walked the hall, then back to bed. If I moved, she was right there to see if I needed anything. If I uncovered, she turned up the AC. If I repositioned my head, she was up making suggestions to get me more comfortable. She had me back up in the morning walking again. In short, she was awesome. Also, I am an oncology nurse so hand hygiene is super important to me. This nurse religiously washed her hands before and after touching me....which doesn't even happen as it should in the US. Dr. Lev called her sometime in the night to check on me. I did not request any pain medication while I was in the hospital. I just didn't have that much pain. Just a little uncomfortable at times, but no real pain. The nurse left the next morning around 8am, and the hospital nurses took over. I didn't need them, but I accidentally hit the call light a couple of times and they were there quickly. Someone from the kitchen called and asked me what I wanted for breakfast and I had some breakfast. At some time in the morning a nurse removed the catheter, then Dr. Lev came, checked me over and discharged me. The nurses called the recovery facility and let them know I was being discharged. I went downstairs to admissions, paid my remaining bill and I was back at the recovery center by 11:00 am.
The hospital was modern and clean. State of the art equipment, excellent nursing care that met all US standards from what I saw....and yes...everyone speaks English. It was very quiet and I asked my nurse about how calm and quiet it was on the floor. She said it is a private hospital and only people with insurance or money to pay out of pocket come to the hospital. She said the public hospital is more crazy. That explains it..... I work at a county hospital!!
I have posted elsewhere that having surgery at CIMA is more expensive than having it at the clinic. Since I wasn't sure about everything, I opted to go to CIMA. If I went back for more surgery and I continue to be in the good health that I am now, I would be completely comfortable with having surgery at the clinic. I have that much confidence in Dr. Lev and Dr. Greenwood. However, if you are a smoker or have other health problems, I would recommend CIMA. You will get the care you need there.
So, I think that is every thing from start to finish regarding the actual surgery. It was a great experience and I felt like it was top notch care. If you have any questions I will be glad to answer them if I can.

Post-op day 19

I continue to be doing fine and healing well. I posted pictures of the incisions in front of my ears. They are all but invisible except very dry!! I keep moisturizing. I still have some scabs behind my ears, but just a couple. I will post pictures of those later.... no one here to take them and I can't get a good shot. I am chewing much better. No pain associated with chewing, just tightness. I still have swelling on my face near my ears, still more on the left than right, but nothing really noticeable unless you look real hard. I went back to work yesterday and no one asked any questions, just commented on how rested I looked. Someone asked me if I lost weight and one person said "you look different". I posted a picture of today... the first day with contacts and makeup. So far I am extremely happy!!

4 Weeks post-op

Actually tomorrow is 4 weeks post-op, but I will be away from the computer all day, so I am going to post a short update today. Everything continues to go well. I have had no complications or significant pain. I continue to have the swelling near my ears. It is almost resolved on the right side, but about the same on the left side. I think almost all of the scabs on the incisions in my head have come off. I am slowly getting feeling back in my face and ears. My right ear feels normal, but my left ear is still oddly sensitive to the touch. I am still happy with the results and I still think Dr. Lev is a surgical genius!

11 weeks and 4 days post op

It has been almost 3 months since the surgery. I am still so pleased with Dr. Lev's work. All of the swelling in gone from the right side of my face. I still have a little on the left side close to my ear. The feeling is coming back in my face, neck and all of my incisions,.... and with that comes itching! My eyelid incisions have been itching this week. It is just part of the healing process and not bad at all. I still have some numbness on the sides of my face close to my ears, but it isn't completely numb anymore. The scars on my eyes are invisible.....which they have been pretty much since the beginning. The incisions in front of my ears are completely flat and invisible. The incisions behind my ears and going back into my scalp are still a little pink, but they held the most tension and require the most time to heal. My hair is VERY short and you still have to look very closely to see them. I am so thankful for Dr. Lev and his amazing work!

5 months post

Five months out and doing great. I still have minimal numbness right by my ears. Scars are healed beautifully. This picture from about 3 weeks ago. I still think Dr. Lev is the best and have no regrets!

6 months post

I just wanted to post an updated picture. All of the swelling is gone now. Scars are faded. The picture is taken outside in my car in natural light. No regrets.

10.5 months

Just posting a updated picture. No makeup in this picture. It has been almost a year and I am still very happy with the work Dr. Lev did!
Costa Rica Plastic Surgeon

My experience with Dr. Lev was exceptional. I know how nice a physician is has no bearing on his work, but you just can't describe Dr. Lev without alluding to his gentle, caring nature. He is a caring, compassionate human being. In addition to that, he is a skilled, legitimate, extraordinary surgeon. Every interaction with him was professional and like talking to a good friend at the same time. His anesthesiologist Dr. Greenwood is equally skilled, professional and a caring human being. My experience was positive from beginning to end.

5 out of 5 stars Overall rating
5 out of 5 stars Doctor's bedside manner
5 out of 5 stars Answered my questions
5 out of 5 stars After care follow-up
5 out of 5 stars Time spent with me
5 out of 5 stars Phone or email responsiveness
5 out of 5 stars Staff professionalism & courtesy
5 out of 5 stars Payment process
5 out of 5 stars Wait times
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