Special moment: Yustince, from Indonesia, spent three years living without a nose after her husband sliced it off (left) but now she has had it restored thanks to Oscar-winning special effects artist Alec Gillis (right)
Oscar-winning special effects artist Alec Gillis has created some of Hollywood's most grotesque creatures and brought to life the lovable characters of books and cartoons.
His enormous studio in Chatsworth feels more like a museum. He loves the challenge of creating Hollywood's most memorable creatures, yet his latest challenge is not a blockbuster movie monster. It's simply a nose. But it's not just any nose. It's one that will change a woman's life - someone he's never met.
Some 9,000 miles from Hollywood, 30-year-old Yustince of Indonesia has lived without a nose for three years. Her husband, in a fit of rage, cut it off her face.
With no access to health care, Yustince spends each day in shame with a bandage over her face that leaves her cheeks raw and in pain every night. She's given up on a miracle happening. But miracles do happen, and sometimes from an unexpected source.
Rebecca Grossman of the Grossman Burn Foundation found out about Yustince. She used her Hollywood connections, contacted Gillis and asked him to help.
"I went to him and asked, 'Do you think you could do this?' He said, 'No problem,'" Grossman said. "We're so grateful that he jumped right in there and what he's provided us with, it's going to change her life."
"We're normally the ones scarring people with our scary monsters, so it's nice to be able to heal a scar," Gillis added.
With little to go on besides photos, Gillis created a few different prototypes with a color chart to get the best skin tone match. The noses are made of different materials. Some can be glued directly to the face, others attach to eyeglasses.
"We bought a bunch of different sunglasses and put a magnet, each nose has a magnet imbedded in it so it clicks like that," said. "It enables her to wear this without any glue, no skin abrasion or irritation, she can walk around and feel normal again."
Grossman takes the prosthetics, travels to Indonesia and delivers them to Yustince in person. The day Yustince received a model of her new nose was a day she never thought would come. Finally, she got the first sign of hope that she'll feel complete again.
Because it's a prototype, the nose still needs some refining. Dr. Peter Grossman, a plastic surgeon, communicates with Yustince via cutting edge telemedicine technology. In Los Angeles, he suggests changes to the nose that will make it look more natural.
Together with a mold of Yustince's daughter's nose, Gillis will make adjustments so that it will be a perfect skin tone, match and fit. One day soon, the perfected nose will be finished and sent, and she'll finally feel more complete.
For Yustince, who's building back confidence and able to go about her daily life without feeling ashamed, the Hollywood special effects master is her new hero and the people who didn't give up on her have changed her life forever.
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