Long before the rest of us, Conrado Ramos Estrada had become accustomed to wearing face masks.
The 57-year-old painter and construction worker avoided eating and breathing due to his increasingly enormous nose, but he opted to conceal it nonetheless.
“They would stare at me,” the Portchester, NY resident told The Post. “Children would ask their mothers what happened to me — and I would get around it by using a face mask all the time.”
His enormous snout could be more than just an eyesore; it could prevent him from breathing, make him snore, and generally be an annoyance. “It had reached my lips and whenever I took a bite when I ate that would touch the spoon,” he said.
Now that Estrada’s nose and mask are out of the way, his loved ones can see his genuine smile.
Dr. Thomas Romo, director of facial plastic reconstructive surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, was a random acquaintance of mine, and a fortuitous meeting was the catalyst for everything.
When Estrada arrived at Romo’s Bronxville house with a painting team around five months ago, Romo told The Post that he “was sort of excited” to meet him.
“This was a bad one,” he said of Estrada’s “proboscis,” which appeared as if he had “a p**is on his nose,” according to Romo’s description. “It was a smoldering infection … and it would have just kept going.”
He felt compelled to take Estrada aside.
“I don’t mind telling people what I think,” Romo admitted.
Estrada had suffered from rhinophyma, which was the cause of his nose’s deformity, for a very long time.
The enlarged sebaceous (oil) glands cause the skin at the tip of the nose to thicken, become pimpled, and pitted in people with this disorder.
Although it has been identified as a kind of rosacea, an inflammatory skin disease, the exact origin of the disorder remains a mystery.
“I had spent six years seeing doctors and skin specialists and nothing would get better,” When it comes to rhinophyma, there is currently no cure.
Nose reduction surgery was the sole option for severe cases like Estrada’s.
Although it does occur, rhinophyma is more commonly seen in males. It often starts in middle age and can progress uncontrollably unless surgical intervention is done.
“I hadn’t seen a rhinophyma in maybe 20 years,” said Dr. Romo, who performed Estrada’s operation.
“This has to be affecting his life,” Romo thought, “his relationship with other people … and his ability to get work, and [his] self-esteem.”
Romo is no stranger to “pro bono” labor; his Little Baby Face Foundation helps underprivileged youngsters who suffer from facial defects get the surgery they need.
“Not many people know how to fix this thing,” he continued, and health insurance might not pay for it either.
“He saw me, and he gave me a hug,” Estrada told The Post. “He said, ‘I’m going to help you.’ ”
Estrada was in the operation room in no time at all after a few days of paperwork and signatures. He is now back to work and living his life, about four weeks after surgery.
Romo said that the changes extend beyond the contours of his face. He said of Estrada’s post-op images, “You’d think he won an Olympic gold medal.” “His happy face and chest are on full display. I am so happy for him!”
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As Romo put it, “a better and more productive person in society” is someone who exudes confidence. I’m making every effort to support my community. It is my hope that this community thrives.
The response from those closest to Estrada has been “enormous,” according to him. “I believe God sent an angel to take care of me — and that’s how I see Dr. Romo,” he told The Post.