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Melissa Arnold

The cover of Chris Brady’s new children’s book. Photo from Brady

By Melissa Arnold

On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 children and six adults were killed in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Chris Brady, 33, of Rocky Point, was profoundly impacted by the events of that day and has spent the past three years developing “Twenty-­Six Angels,” a children’s book inspired by those who died. The book was published on Nov. 13, and Brady hopes it will inspire children and adults alike to spread peace in our world.

I recently sat down with Brady to learn more about the book and what he hopes for the future.

Tell me a bit about your background.  What got you interested in writing?
I’ve always had an artist’s spirit. Writing has always been my way of chronicling my life. I have a book of probably a hundred poems that have gotten me through so many experiences. But I always wanted to be an actor and singer, so those things were always in the forefront. I’ve worked in retail and in the fitness industry, and also have a master’s degree in health care administration. Writing is kind of my hidden talent, but this story was something I needed to share.

How would you describe the book to someone who hasn’t read it?
It covers the theme of nonviolence and how the power of youth can combat evil in any circumstance. It’s about putting down your weapons, whether that’s guns, negative emotions or poor treatment of others.
In the book, the halos of angels light up when they sing. That light banishes everything evil in the world. When the book begins, there aren’t enough angels and the world is in despair. Then, 26 new angels are born. They face a lot of doubt from the older angels, but they’re given a try and are sent to bring a message of peace and nonviolence to the world.
I stayed away from any kind of religious elements. ­­ I chose to use angels because of the way they’re glorified in our culture, and there’s something cherubic about children. I thought it would be a nice symbol to use.

Chris Brady photo from the author
Chris Brady photo from the author

What inspired you to write about the Sandy Hook tragedy?
(The day of the shooting), I remember pulling my car over and listening to all the broadcasts. ­­ I was fixated on them. It was horrible listening to parents wondering if their child was alive, and I couldn’t imagine what they were going through. On 9/11, I was downtown (in New York City) and used writing to work through that, so it’s not surprising that I felt the need to write about this as well.
I was the choreographer for three years at Rocky Point Middle School and worked with sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. The book was partially linked to that experience of collaborating on an art that teaches the students to use their talents in a positive way.
Having worked with middle schoolers, I asked myself, what would I say to these kids? I’ve found myself suffering through tragedy and trying to cope with things I couldn’t understand, and I thought about what I would say to a younger me, as well as the families and loved ones of children who have lost their lives.
There’s something so unbelievably pure about first-graders. I told myself there has to be a way to brighten people’s lives in the absence of these children, and it’s happening. You can choose to either wallow in the darkness or make something brighter out of life. This was my way of balancing out the darkness with light and combat unspeakable evil with incredible good.
Obviously, one story can’t fix everything. But if we continue to give back to the people left behind, light really will shine through that darkness.

Who is the ideal audience for “Twenty­-six Angels”?
The book says ages 4 to 8, but I really think it would be appropriate for kids 6 to 10 or even 6 to 12. It can speak to all children and has a timeless feel. The poetry is a little bit elevated, but because it’s sing­song (in style) and rhymes, it’s easy for young children to grab onto. I read the book to a group of 4-­year­-olds and they definitely understood the message, which was great to see. Beyond that, it’s really for anybody looking for comfort. I’ve had an equally strong response from adults and children.

The book is written entirely in rhyme. Why did you choose this format?
With this subject and the idea of creating a song together, I thought rhyme would be most effective for the message.

How can parents or other adults use this book to help the children in their lives?
The first thing that you can teach a child is the difference between play and reality. We can play pirates and Jedis, but they really have no business with a weapon. That might be an unpopular opinion for some, but it’s what I believe. All of us are capable of violence, and children need to learn to channel their passions in a positive way.

What are your plans for the future?
I’m hoping to take any proceeds from the book and use them to help the people of Newtown in any way I can. I learned recently that many people are just showing up there to help out. This book belongs first and foremost in the hands of the people affected by the tragedy. It’s not about the profits for me.

Where can we get the book? How much is it?
You can find the book at all of the major online retailers, as well was www.archwaypublishing.com. The more interest there is, the more likely we’ll be to get it on shelves in the future, too. It’s available in hardcover for $22.95, softcover for $16.95 and as a digital e­book for $3.99.

Where can people learn more about you or contact you?
You can always email me at chrisbrady22@gmail.com. You can also find out more on the book’s Facebook page, “Twenty­Six Angels ­ Children’s Book Launch.”

Chris Brady will hold a book signing on Saturday, Jan. 16, at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, at 11 a.m. For more information, call 631-928-9100.

‘E.T. the Extra Terrestrial’ will be screened on Dec. 26 at the Cinema Arts Centre. Photo from CAC

By Melissa Arnold

The holidays are all about spending time with the family and making memories, whether it’s by shopping, baking together or traveling. But when all the hustle and bustle wraps up next week, some families might be left wondering, “Now what?”

The Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington is offering a unique suggestion: Give your kids a taste of your childhood.

Beginning Dec. 26, the theater will celebrate Winter Holiday Week, where moviegoers can see some of the most beloved family classics on the big screen for the first time in decades.

The lineup includes “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” on Dec. 26, a 25th anniversary celebration of “Home Alone” on Dec. 28, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” on Dec. 29 and a special sing-along version of the musical “Grease” with onscreen lyrics on Dec. 30.

“These are shows that evoke memories for a lot of people, and getting to see it in the theater with their families or friends can be a lot like reliving the experience of seeing it for the first time,” said Raj Tawney, publicity director for the theater.

The CAC plays host to all kinds of artistic expression, not just film, including  concerts and lectures. The theater typically screens films with serious or intense themes that are best suited for adults, but they also offer events for all ages at least once a month with their Cinema for Kids and Families series.

“We’re looking for films that will interest a large audience and maintain our integrity as an art house cinema,” Tawney explained. And with kids off from school until the new year, there’s no better time for family films.

Also in the lineup for the week is Kid Flix Mix on Dec. 27, an hour-long collection of 11 live-action and animated shorts from the New York International Film Festival. The films come from all over the world, but all dialogue is in English.

“Kid Flix Mix has films from Australia, France, Russia, Norway, England and many other places throughout the world, which is a great opportunity for kids to learn something new,” Tawney said. “They can see more than just what’s a part of their culture. They’ll learn the importance of fantasy and that creativity comes in so many different forms.”

Many of the short films feature animals. One film, Torill Kove’s “Me and My Moulton,” was an Oscar nominee this year.

Before or after the show, Tawney recommends visiting the center’s Skyroom Café for a meal or snack, beverages and conversation. “People really love getting together at the cafe to talk and relax after a show,” he said. “The day doesn’t have to end just because the show is over.”

Winter Holiday Week will be held at noon every day from Dec. 26 through Dec. 30. The Cinema Arts Centre is located at 423 Park Ave., Huntington. Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12.

To buy tickets or learn more, visit www.cinemaartscentre.org or call 631- 423-7611.

Matthew W. Surico stars in a sensory-friendly performance of ‘My Christmas Elf: The Musical’ on Dec. 5 at 11 a.m. Photo by Kristen Digilio

By Melissa Arnold

For a child with special needs, the world can be overwhelming.

The things many of us take for granted — a trip to the mall, stopping for a coffee or going to a show — can be frightening and confusing to children with sensory processing issues.

A sensory processing disorder affects how someone experiences their surroundings. Their senses might be too dull, or heightened to the point of discomfort. The disorder, which impacts at least 1 in 20 children, according to the SPD Foundation, can vary widely from person to person. The foundation also reported that 80 percent of people with autism experience symptoms of SPD, though not all people with SPD are autistic.

One thing is shared among them, however: SPD can make life’s little pleasures nearly impossible, not just for those with the disorder, but for their families and caregivers as well.

This year, the Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at the CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale has been hard at work adapting their children’s theater program for audiences with sensory difficulties.

Office manager Terry Brennan was inspired to bring sensory-friendly shows to the theater after reading about it in a magazine. Broadway theaters occasionally offer an adapted show, but CM is the only theater to do so regularly on Long Island.

Brennan, the former owner of the now-closed Airport Playhouse in Bohemia, is sympathetic to families and children with SPD. “It’s hard when you see a child in the theater who is extra vocal or likes to move around. It can be challenging for their families,” she explained. “We don’t want them to feel embarrassed. I thought, ‘Why don’t we do something, even if it’s just one performance per production?’”

Using brief instructional videos as a guide, Brennan educated the actors and theater staff on what makes sensory-friendly theater work.

“First, as people come in the door, there are sensory-friendly toys in the lobby, like Koosh balls and blocks, that the kids can play with while waiting for the show to start. They can bring the toys into the theater with them,” she said. “Families may also use cellphones or tablets with children who need distraction throughout the show, as long as the volume is turned off.

The key to an adapted production is to tone down elements of a show that may be disturbing to viewers with SPD. The house lights, which are normally off during a show, are kept on to prevent sudden darkness. Strobe lights, fog machines and most other special effects are not used. In addition, there is typically no intermission, as it can disrupt focus and peace for people with SPD. Most shows will run about one hour straight through.

The volume for sensory-friendly shows is lowered, and actors tend to avoid physical interaction with audience members unless directly approached first.

Beyond that, audience members are welcome to sing, dance, yell and move around to their hearts’ content. They can also meet cast members after the show if they’d like.

The theater held its first sensory-friendly performance, “Pinocchio Jr.,” in the summer of last year. At the time, there were just three families in the audience. But Brennan wasn’t measuring success by audience size, she said.

“To me, success is when a parent comes up to me and says, ‘Thank you, I didn’t feel like I had to leave or feel embarrassed at all.’ She could let her son stay and enjoy. It was wonderful.”

Today, sensory-friendly shows at the theater can bring in audiences of more than 100 people.

Kristen Digilio, director of the children’s shows and an occasional cast member, was working in the light booth during “Pinocchio.”

“Getting to see the kids waving, clapping and getting vocally involved was really exciting,” she recalled. “It was easy for them to get up and dance. We encourage audience participation in all of our shows, and this was special.”

She added that learning the basics of sensory-friendly theater was a breeze for the actors.

“It was really cool to learn about, because as a junior production, we were working with young actors,” she said. “There was even an actor in that show (‘Pinocchio’) with autism, so he was pumped for the changes and was really able to share why it made a difference.”

The theater is currently celebrating 38 years of children’s productions, and they plan to hold one sensory-friendly show per production from now on.

There are two upcoming sensory-friendly shows this season, including “My Christmas Elf” on Dec. 5 at 11 a.m. and “The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley” on Feb. 27, 2016, at 11 a.m.

Sensory-friendly shows for “Schoolhouse Rock,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” and “James and the Giant Peach,” in the spring and summer of 2016, will also be held. Dates for those shows will be announced soon.

The CM Performing Arts Center is located at 931 Montauk Highway in Oakdale. Admission for all children’s performances is $12. To learn more about the theater and its sensory-friendly productions, call 631-218-2810 or visit www.cmpac.com.

A scene from last year’s art sale at the St. James R.C. Church in E. Setauket. Photo from Andrew Meade

By Melissa Arnold

For many people in Haiti, financial stability has always been out of reach. The country ranks among the poorest in the world, and the economy there only suffered further following a major earthquake in 2010, which killed hundreds and left even more without homes.

Despite all the setbacks, Haitians are still known for their joy and perseverance. They’ll do whatever they can to make a living.

This weekend, St. James Catholic Church in Setauket will host a sale of handmade artwork and craft jewelry created by talented Haitians. A portion of the proceeds from the sale will be poured into bettering a Haitian community.

The church is partnering with The Vassar Haiti Project, a not-for-profit, nonsectarian grass-roots organization based at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie. The program’s founders, Andrew and Lila Meade, both have personal connections to the country — Lila’s mother grew up there, and Andrew graduated from high school in the country while his father was involved with the international diplomatic service.

The couple met in 1985 and quickly bonded over their shared background. They married not long after. The Meades were frequent participants in Haitian fundraisers, but it wasn’t until 9/11 that they felt prompted to take a more active role. “I think it was a time when we really wanted to think about what our purpose was,” Lila Meade recalls. “Haiti was always on our radar, so it seemed a natural choice to help them. We started to buy pieces of Haitian art here and there and then began to wonder what it would be like if we held an art show to benefit villages there.”

Andrew Meade is the director of the Office of International Studies at Vassar and thought the college would make a great host site for the sale. Using their own savings to purchase artwork and family and friends as volunteers, the Meades held their first art sale at Vassar in February of 2012. They raised $14,000 that year.

The Meades felt strongly about putting the money toward education and developing personal relationships with the people they assisted. With the help of existing Haitian relief programs, they connected with the mountain village of Chermaitre to provide hot meals for students and salaries for teachers.

“In the developing world, it’s typical for children to help the family make additional money by staying home and working. Families usually won’t send their children to school without incentives,” Andrew explains. “Offering a hot meal at school was a huge draw. For many of these kids, it’s the only hot meal they’ll have for the day.”

The Vassar Haiti Project continued to grow each year following their first sale. In the past 15 years they’ve completed a seven-room school for kindergarten through sixth grade; built a medical clinic with a doctor and nurse on staff; and developed a system for easier water access and purification, among other projects. So far, they’ve raised more than $500,000 for the artists and villagers of Chermaitre.

The project is currently working on a reforestation effort, which includes planting 100,000 trees, and building a women’s cooperative. “A lot of the women in the village do not have husbands and are raising five to 12 children in a very rural area,” Lila says. At the women’s cooperative, “they learn to make things like jewelry or napkins, or use other skills they’ve learned previously to work. Right now they are growing incredible coffee. We’re then able to sell those goods and pour the profits back into the community.”

The project is also supported by a passionate group of Vassar student volunteers who facilitate art sales and brainstorm new ideas. They also travel to Haiti each year to meet face to face with village leaders to discuss their needs and next steps.

“The program is about more than helping the Haitian communities. It’s also about mentoring the students — encouraging them to develop and implement their own ideas,” Lila says. “We encourage global citizenship — not just considering the world from an American perspective but from other cultures as well.”

The art sales have expanded beyond Vassar, too, with individuals and groups hosting their own sales in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Connecticut, among other places.

Setauket’s Jeanine Morelli, coordinator of the upcoming sale, fell in love with the project while attending her 30th class reunion at Vassar two years ago. Morelli says she admired the artwork and purchased a few pieces that weekend, but meeting Andrew and Lila encouraged her to bring a sale to Long Island.

“With this project, you’re supporting the livelihood of the Haitians rather than just supplying handouts, and the leadership education for the students is wonderful,” she says.

The first Setauket art sale was held last February at St. James Catholic Church, where Morelli is a member. It was a huge success, raising more than $25,000. While Morelli admits she had to get out of her comfort zone to plan the sale, supporting Haiti was worth it.

The upcoming sale will feature more than 250 paintings and crafts at a variety of price points, with crafts beginning at $5 and most paintings starting around $50. Sixty percent of the proceeds will go toward paying the Haitian artists and purchasing supplies for the sales, while the other 40 percent directly benefits the initiatives in Haiti. All purchases are 50 percent tax-deductible.

The Long Island Vassar Haiti Project art sale will be held from Nov. 20 to 22 at St. James Catholic Church, 429 Route 25A, E. Setauket. The sale will begin with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, and will continue Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information about the sale, contact Andrew Meade at 845-797-2123. To learn more about the Vassar Haiti Project, visit www.thehaitiproject.org.

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By Melissa Arnold

Imagine this: You’re out with friends at a barbecue and wake up the next day with an unusual rash. On top of that, you’re just not feeling well.

Most people would head to a nearby urgent care center, emergency department or doctor’s office to get checked out. In all of these situations, though, you’re probably in for a wait of several hours. And in the case of a doctor’s office, you might have to wait a few days or even longer to be seen.

But what if you could take a picture of that rash with your cellphone and text it to a doctor, who responds right away with advice before calling in a prescription? Even better, what if you could do that at any time, seven days a week?

Such direct access to a doctor isn’t just a fantasy anymore. It’s a type of care called concierge medicine, and it’s spreading rapidly across the country.

Concierge practices come in several different forms, but in all cases, patients pay an annual or semi-annual fee to their physician, even if they don’t visit the office. In exchange, patients are guaranteed shorter wait times, longer, unrushed appointments and 24/7 access if a problem arises.

The fee varies widely depending on the location of the practice and the services they offer. Some physicians will also charge based on a patient’s age or medical status.

Dr. Bruce Feldman works independently, traveling throughout Long Island and occasionally elsewhere to meet his patients at their workplace, home or another location.

“My preferred population is an executive or professional who is too busy to go to the doctor. I go directly to them,” said Feldman, who also has offices in Melville and Port Washington. “If a guy is making a fair living, the idea of driving to the doctor and having to spend time waiting usually doesn’t sit well. And yet they want to be successful at their jobs and function at an optimal level.”

Feldman does have patients come in for an initial physical, but as he gets to know them, care becomes less about face-to-face contact and more about communicating by phone or email as needed.

The biggest difference between concierge and traditional medical care, Feldman said, is the focus on preventing future health issues instead of attempting to resolve existing problems.

Both Feldman and Dr. Vasilios Kalonaros of Northport agreed that preventative care is lacking in traditional medicine, and patients are suffering for it.

“When you’re only given 15 minutes with a patient, it’s like putting your finger in a dam — you can’t always take the time to treat every issue,” Kalonaros says.

Small practices are a hallmark in concierge medicine. Most doctors limit themselves to a few hundred patients, allowing for longer visits.

Before Kalonaros made the switch to concierge medicine eight years ago, he was seeing up to 40 patients a day. Now, it varies between eight and 12. Feldman sees about four patients each day, with only 60 patients total.

And statistics show that a doctor with time to spare makes a difference for patients. According to MDVIP, a private network of physicians that includes Kalonaros, concierge patients are hospitalized 72 percent less than those seeing a traditional doctor. In addition, the American Journal of Managed Care reports that concierge medicine ultimately saves the health care system more than $300 million in Medicare expenses.

Its popularity appears to be growing, too. There are now hundreds of concierge doctors throughout the country, and more than 20 on Long Island alone.

Before choosing a concierge doctor, it’s best to determine exactly what you want. Are you looking for a doctor who takes your insurance, does house calls or has inexpensive fees? Answering these questions will help narrow the field.

Then, ask for a consultation. Use that time to get to know them, learn about their services and determine if he or she is a good fit for your needs.

Fees vary widely in the concierge world, from under $2,000 annually to more than $20,000.

Concierge medicine is familiar to some, thanks to the USA Network’s medical drama series “Royal Pains.” The show follows a cardiac surgeon who becomes a private physician for the wealthiest residents of the Hamptons.

While some of the show’s themes are accurate, its sole focus on upper-class patients is just a stereotype.

“Most of my patients are not wealthy — they are middle and lower-middle class,” Kalonaros said. He added that a concierge doctor can be a great option for those with minimal or no insurance, because his $1,650 fee guarantees access to him at any time.

And Feldman argues that when you don’t get sick in the first place, this model will save you money that would be otherwise spent on medication or more extensive treatment.

But both doctors are quick to admit it’s not the best option for everyone.

“If you have a good relationship with your existing doctor, you don’t need a concierge doctor. But if you’re frustrated or not getting the care you need and are willing to pay more, a concierge doctor might be for you,” Feldman says. “It’s about having a partner in your wellness.”

For those interested, contact Dr. Bruce Feldman at (646) 801-7541, www.mypersonaldocny.com, and contact Dr. Vasilios Kalonaros at (631) 239-1677. Or visit www.mdvip.com to learn more about concierge medicine on Long Island.

‘Tree’ by Gloria M. will be on view at the Long Island Museum from Nov. 19 to Jan. 3, 2016.

By Melissa Arnold

When you suffer from memory loss, even the simplest tasks can be maddeningly frustrating. Most people will experience simple forgetfulness as they get older — misplacing keys, not knowing someone’s name right away and so on — but others will develop dementia, a debilitating condition that affects daily living skills and communication.

According to the World Health Organization, 47.5 million people have dementia and there are 7.7 million new cases diagnosed every year. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common forms of dementia. As memory loss progresses, it can become difficult to communicate, and many people say they feel they’re losing control over their own lives.

For more than a year, Day Haven Adult Day Services in Ronkonkoma has worked to engage participants struggling with memory loss through artistic expression. Now, the work of 15 artists from the program will be on display at the Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. The exhibit, aptly titled “Through Our Eyes,” allows the artists to share themselves freely when using words might be too difficult.

“One of the first things someone with Alzheimer’s disease loses is the ability to retrieve the right words,” said Betsy Geary, program director at Day Haven. “Here, that conversation is elicited by art. It brings people together.”

Day Haven is a social adult day services program for physically frail older adults and those with Alzheimer’s disease. The program also provides support for caregivers. Participants typically live with a spouse or adult child and spend the day exploring all kinds of recreational activities.

This isn’t the first time Day Haven participants have experimented with their artistic talents — the center’s Port Jefferson location, on Sheep Pasture Road, has had a dedicated art program for several years.

But the location in Ronkonkoma did not have an art program until recently, when the Long Island Museum stepped up to help. “We were able to provide a museum educator to help them get started with a dedicated art program,” said Lisa Unander, director of education at the museum. “The response was wonderful; everyone was so engaged.”

Beginning last September, a museum educator has made weekly trips to Day Haven, holding 2 1/2-hour sessions with interested participants, allowing them to explore visual art using a variety of mediums, including paints and clay. “(The educator) took the time to find out which mediums would bring out the creativity in the participants and what they felt most comfortable doing,” Geary said.

As many of the participants at Day Haven are frail or deal with physical challenges, the educator also brought along a variety of stencils, special paintbrushes and other tools adapted to fit their individual capabilities.

Week after week, Geary was delighted to find that the participants were blossoming. “I’ve seen people literally thrive off of doing art. For some participants, we’ve watched them go from the simplest of art to a deep mode of self-expression. I’ve rarely seen anything like that in other settings.”

According to Unander, The Long Island Museum has worked for several years to ensure people with memory loss can enjoy their programs. Their initiative, called In the Moment: Art Engagement for People with Memory Loss, has benefitted more than 1,000 participants since its inception in 2011.

Museum staff members were trained by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on how to adapt their programs to fit the needs of those with memory loss. Soon after, they began to offer exhibit tours just for them.

The museum’s partnership with Day Haven is just the next step in making those with memory loss feel welcome and understood. Unander says the museum is working toward a spring conference for caregivers, medical staff and others on integrating art therapy with memory loss care.

Geary hopes that those who see the exhibit will leave with a greater appreciation for what those with memory loss can achieve. “I want people to see that there is always potential to do something new that we can celebrate. Even though (we) can lose the usual ways of communicating, art really can bring us together in a conversation without words,” she says.

“Through Our Eyes” will feature more than 30 paintings and clay creations, along with descriptions of the significance of each piece written by the artists or their families. The exhibit will run from Nov. 19 through Jan. 3, 2016. An artist reception will be held on Dec. 1, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The museum will also offer a free open house on Dec. 6, and a free “Senior Tuesday” event for people 62 and older on Dec. 8.

For more information, visit www.longislandmuseum.org or call 631-751-0066, ext. 212.

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A before and after of a rhinoplasty, or “nose job,” by Dr. Gregory Diehl in Port Jefferson Station. Photos from Dr. Gregory Diehl

By Melissa Arnold

We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives, even briefly: That nagging feeling of discontent about the way you look.

Maybe you’re a parent with stubborn post-baby weight, someone who’s had gastric bypass surgery with lots of extra skin or even someone recovering from a traumatic injury that’s affected your appearance. In all of these cases, lifestyle changes can only do so much.

For many years, plastic surgery has bridged that gap, giving patients from all walks of life the look they’ve longed for. And while it’s still going to cost you, going under the knife is simpler than ever.

An ancient practice
Believe it or not, plastic surgery has been around for thousands of years in two forms — reconstructive and cosmetic. According to the National Institutes of Health, some of the earliest body-altering procedures were performed in India around 800 B.C. At that time, people often had their noses cut off during conflict or as punishment, and simplistic rhinoplasties, “nose jobs,” were performed to reconstruct them.

Modern reconstructive surgery was born in wartime as soldiers dealt with facial trauma and other injuries. The American Board of Plastic Surgery was organized in 1937.

Cosmetic surgery took longer to become popular — the buzz surrounding it didn’t pick up until the 1970s and 80s, says Dr. Jim Romanelli of North Shore Plastic Surgery in Huntington.

“There was [originally] some resistance within medicine, saying it was unnecessary, dangerous and vain,” Romanelli said. “But today, we know a lot more about performing the surgery safely with good results.”

What began with involved, painful procedures and long scars has grown into a streamlined, patient-directed field of surgery with more natural-looking results and less hassle.

And these days, plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures are more accessible than ever. While no cosmetic surgeries are covered by insurance, there are now plenty of options to finance them, from saving up cash to working with a lender or financing company.

“Most people having cosmetic surgery just want to look in the mirror and feel happy and healthy,” Romanelli said. “These are everyday people — schoolteachers, musicians, bus drivers — not exclusively wealthy people or celebrities.”

While many patients opting for surgery are women, the number of male patients is growing too.

Modern trends
In the past, a patient’s wishes weren’t always a huge priority. Years ago, a surgeon may have only performed a procedure in a certain way. If the patient hoped for something different, they’d have to look elsewhere.

But today, it’s not uncommon for patients to bring in photos of the kind of look they’re hoping for, much like choosing a hairstyle or wedding dress, Romanelli explained.

Finding out what the patient really wants is the foundation of modern cosmetic surgery, says Dr. Hilton Adler of Suffolk Plastic Surgeons in Setauket.

“I always start by asking a patient what they’re looking for — what concerns them and what they want to see changed,” he said. “Then, following an exam, I’ll offer them choices based on what [technology is] available.”

Today’s most sought after surgeries aren’t that different from the past. Nose jobs, breast reductions or augmentations, tummy tucks and face-lifts all top the list.

“I wouldn’t say that any particular cosmetic procedure has been abandoned, just significantly modified. It’s almost like a brand-new procedure in some cases,” Adler explained.

For example, Romanelli says that the incisions used for breast-related surgeries have changed, allowing for a smaller scar. In some cases, the incision is made under the arm, where it’s less obvious.

There’s also the “mommy makeover,” which combines a tummy tuck and a face lift or breast work into one surgery.

Men usually come in for facial work, but many are also seeking help for gynecomastia, a condition that causes breast development.

“It’s tough on guys who are in high school or college whose breasts develop,” said Dr. Gregory Diehl of Diehl Plastic Surgery in Port Jefferson Station. “The hormones are fine, but the glands are bigger. Its become more common today to look for a fix.”

In reconstructive surgery, one of the most common procedures today helps to eliminate excess skin that often occurs in people who have experienced rapid or significant weight loss, Adler says. In many cases, the weight loss is aided by gastric bypass procedures.

Noninvasive procedures and more
Of course, not every cosmetic procedure requires surgery. In fact, minimally invasive and noninvasive procedures are extremely popular today, as new technology continues to develop.

“People are trying to get away from surgery, while things like Botox and other (injectable) fillers are becoming more popular,” Diehl said.

Injectables are a group of materials that can smooth wrinkles, plump other areas, and create a more youthful look overall.

Procedures such as CoolSculpting, which freezes and shrinks fat cells, and ultherapy, which uses ultrasound technology for tightening the face, are also on the rise, Adler said.

Put simply, if you can dream it, there’s likely a procedure to help you achieve it.

Planning your makeover
If you’re looking to have cosmetic surgery or another procedure, the first step is choosing the right surgeon.

“We urge patients to seek out board-certified plastic surgeons. Make sure your doctor has proper credentials,” Adler said.

Diehl also noted that they should offer to show you their previous work. “Ask for pictures of their surgeries. You should like what you see. Pictures tell the story,” he said. “Also, is the doctor really listening to you and what you want? You have to communicate. You have to make sure all the details are ironed out.”

Once you find the right person, a consultation lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

The surgeon will get an idea of what you’d like to do, and in some cases allow you to check it out using computer imaging.

If you’re satisfied, you’ll return for a second appointment to address any new questions or concerns before scheduling the procedure. The exact process and recovery time varies, depending on the procedure. Many surgeons have operating rooms in their own offices, and barring complications, a patient can go home the same day.

Making a difference
The surgeons are quick to note that there’s no longer any stigma surrounding plastic surgery. “People are proud of what they’ve done. They want to tell everyone about it,” Diehl said.

The surgeons are proud, too.

“People do say, ‘You’ve changed my life. I should have done this sooner.’ It’s wonderful to be able to help people with that,” Romanelli said.

‘The Joy Keeper,’ self-portrait by Christopher Reisman

By Melissa Arnold

Some people say they see the world through rose-colored glasses. Contemporary artist Christopher Reisman sees the world in technicolor.

‘Think Tall' by Christopher Reisman
‘Think Tall’ by Christopher Reisman

His acrylic and mixed-media paintings mostly showcase people and animals with a whimsical, kaleidoscope-like color palette. Some of his paintings are abstract, but for the Rocky Point resident, it’s all about experimentation and play.

A selection of his abstracts and animal portraits will be on display throughout the month of September in an exhibit titled “Paintings by Christopher: All Things Sacred” at the North Shore Public Library in Shoreham. The art show will feature paintings, some as large as 48 inches wide by 60 inches high, and several prints.

This is Reisman’s second appearance at the library, says art coordinator Hildegard Kroeger. He had an exhibit there six years ago. “He’s doing a lot more freestyle work now,” Kroeger says. “He’s very colorful and people really pay attention to his work when they stop by.”

Reisman’s talents — which also include sculpture, music and sewing — are more than just hobbies. They have been his lifeblood since he was a toddler.

“I drew on the walls as a child and was always getting big pads of drawing paper from my parents, who were very encouraging,” says Reisman.

His creative streak would lead to an art-intensive high school education and some study at what is now Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, but Reisman’s mostly self-taught. He spent more than 40 years as an art educator in a variety of settings before an illness led him to retire in 2000.

‘The Visit’ by Christopher Reisman
‘The Visit’ by Christopher Reisman

Since then, Reisman has been able to focus fully on enjoying and sharing his gifts, which have healed him inside and out. “Even in the darkest times in my life — and I’ve been through plenty, trust me ­— I was drawing and playing the piano,” Reisman explains. “[Through my illness and later recovery] I’ve learned that we need to learn to let go — whether that’s of a bad habit or an old way of thinking — and if we can do that, we can come to a place of healing. I hope to reach as many people as possible with that.”

Today, Reisman enjoys long hours painting at his home, which he calls the “sanctuary.” The property, which he shares with his partner Robert McDonald and their two cats, Dolly and Joey,  is also home to hundreds of birds, fish and other animals.

The artwork he creates is for more than display. Anywhere from 10 percent to the full value of each sold painting supports charitable interests close to his heart.

Reisman and McDonald have worked together to support a number of animal shelters on Long Island, including SAVES, Inc. (Spay Alter Vaccinate Every Stray) of Riverhead, Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center in Huntington and Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue & Adoption in Port Jefferson Station, among others.

They are also big supporters of the global Wildlife Conservation Society, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and many cancer benefits that cross their path.

McDonald, who does not have an art background, loves to sit back and watch Reisman’s creative process, which usually begins with several days of research, drafting and prayer.

“It’s like miracle work to me, that [Christopher] can start with a blank canvas and in the course of a few hours or a day have it completely drawn out and ready to be painted,” says McDonald, who has been with Reisman for 16 years. “He’ll say to me, ‘Today I’m going to paint a tiger,’ and the next day it appears. I would never be able to do something like what he does.”

‘Wake Up’ by Christopher Reisman
‘Wake Up’ by Christopher Reisman

Some paintings have specific stories — like his chimpanzees,“The Visit,” inspired by the work of famed primatologist Jane Goodall, or his self-portrait, “The Joy Keeper,” painted at home in his hall of mirrors over an old abstract painting ‘to show the joy we can all feel if we allow it’ — but others are just subjects Reisman or his family members enjoy.

For abstract pieces, Reisman says that he likes “staying spontaneous and moving color around that excites me, without judging.”

The couple believes that sharing their gifts, both physical and emotional, is just the first step toward a healthier, more peaceful world. They are currently searching for a publisher to get the art to a wider audience.

Reisman has gained many fans through the years and  has received rave reviews from his past art exhibits. Newsday art critic Jeanne Paris wrote that his artwork projects “unspoken eloquence in visual imagery that is not to be forgotten,” and “I Had It All the Time” author Alan Cohen stated “Christopher Reisman creates with passion, power and purpose. His heart is in his art. If you look deeply you will see much.” Even “Good Day New York’s” Rosanna Scotto has purchased one of his paintings.

“When people see my work, they’ll see lots of bright, happy colors and find they feel a joy and peacefulness that’s very powerful,” Reisman explains. “I believe that power comes from within each of us. It’s been my mission to turn as many people as possible onto their own innate creativity. I find that it’s very healing.”

Explore some of Christopher Reisman’s artwork from Sept. 1 through Sept. 29 at the North Shore Public Library, 250 Route 25A, Shoreham.

An artist reception, hosted by the Friends of the Library, featuring a larger selection of Reisman’s art, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 12, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at the library. All are welcome.

For more information about the exhibit, call 631-929-4488. To learn more about Reisman or to purchase his art, visit www.artbychristopher.org.

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