South Florida Doctor Zapping Away Scars, Burns & Birthmarks With Light

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There is a South Florida doctor who is making accident scars, burn scars and birthmarks less noticeable, and in some cases invisible. She’s doing it not with medicine or surgery, but with light.

CBS4’s David Sutta reports on the groundbreaking work with lasers that’s changing lives.

After Adele Azcuy’s head-on crash on Krome Avenue, doctors feared she may never walk again.

“It was pretty devastating. Broken foot, two broken knees shattered, broken femur, fractured my right arm, my shoulder, paralyzed arm, head laceration,” Azcuy told CBS4.

She fought hard to get back to being herself.

“I was bedridden for three months, I was in wheelchair for maybe six months, and cane for about eight months. Physical therapy, occupational therapy for a year and half, wound therapy for four months,” she recalled.

This is the last step for her, making extensive multiple knee surgeries disappear.

A doctor zaps her knee with a laser light.

“I wanted to be who I was before the accident, that’s what I wanted to do,” Azcuy explained.

Her leg has undergone a handful of laser treatments. There is a noticeable difference between what it looked like before and after.

“I wear dresses, and I’m back to spinning, and I’m very active, and I’m very grateful,” she said with a smile.

Dr. Jill Waibel is the doctor behind the laser, and she’s being credited with changing the way scars are dealt with.

For many, it’s no longer a lifelong sentence.

“We treat between 2,000 to 3,000 scar patients a year, which I think is the highest that I know of in the world,” Waibel said.

She sees all kinds of cases, including birthmarks.

Maria Montoya was born with a port wine stain birthmark. It covered much of one side of her face.

“The whole top part is pretty much gone. It covered up to my eye. And everything else has been diminishing slowly for surely,” Montoya said.

Waibel also has treated one of the most notable burn cases in the world.

“I have a lot of high-profile patients, but I think Kim is probably the most famous scar patient in the world,” Waibel said.

An Associated Press photographer captured a Pulitzer Prize photo of 9-year-old Kim Phuc during the Vietnam War. She tore off her clothes after a bomber dropped napalm on her family.

“The napalm is a horrible bomb. It’s a gel, a sticky gel. And I’ve had to learn about it. I have had several patients with it,” Waibel explained. “When it lands, on Kim it landed on her shoulder, and then it land on you and it’s sticking to you and it catches fire. It’s really a horrific, horrific war tool.”

Using a combination of some 60 lasers, Dr. Waibel is giving patients new lives.

“My students my colleagues, are like ‘oh my goodness, I can’t believe this.’ My family is astonished.  My mom cried a few times,” Montoya said.

Azcuy was equally happy.

“She said we can do this. We can make a difference with the laser.  And I was like you know, ‘let’s try,’ and she did,” Azcuy said.

Dr. Waibel estimates laser treatments run from $500 to $800 per session.

Insurance covers some birthmarks, but most patients have to pay out of pocket.

She’s hoping to change that this year for burn victims.

“We have been working on this for about four years, with the full support of Congress,” she said.

Using lasers for burn scars is a fairly new concept in medicine, roughly 10 years old.

Dr. Waibel said while they cannot guarantee eliminating scars, almost always they can make it less noticeable.

For more information on her work, including more before and after photos go to http://www.miamidermlaser.com/

More from David Sutta
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