Life-changing surgery for teen living with facial differences

Taina Contreras described Northwell Health's Dr. James Bradley as a "gift from God," saying the procedure he carried out was "life-changing."

Video Transcript

TAINA CONTRERAS: Good morning. My name is Taina Contreras, T-A-I-N-A C-O-N-T-R-E-R-A-S. And I am glad to speak to you today on what is referred to as Birth Defects Day. Now, before I begin to tell my story, I would just like to know that those born with congenital differences should not be seen as defective. 19 years ago I was born at Kings County Hospital in East New York, where I was born with a severe cleft palate, lip, and I also had facial differences in my eyes and nose.

Recently I had surgery done on December 22 with Dr. James Bradley. And he performed a lower eyelid reconstruction along with a rhinoplasty and a lip touch-on. The reason why I felt the need to go through with the surgery was because I felt really insecure with my facial differences. And I felt odd with other people around me. I felt like I did not belong with my fellow classmates, especially my professors and teachers at school.

The last surgery I had done was in 2017, and I did not feel very comfortable with the results. I did not like how my appearance looked. I felt my surgery and my face was worse than what I began with. But with Dr. Bradley and his amazing team, my life changed for the better. Currently I am at NYU studying electrical engineering. And Dr. Bradley gave me the confidence to walk my head up high around campus and to be just like an ordinary kid studying and focusing on school.

And I am so grateful for my mom, especially, because she was the one who did her research. And she found this amazing doctor who was a gift from God and blessed me with so many opportunities. And I know that with the surgery that he just performed, when I go out into the real world looking for a job, that I won't be judged by my appearance but by my skills.

And to those who are in the same boat as me I would just like to let them know that they are not alone, that, you know, it's OK to feel insecure about yourself and not have the confidence to tell your story. But it's normal. And everyone should be more kind to one another, especially those who may not look the same as you because we are all different. And the world would be a better place. Thank you.