By Molly Campbell
The most satisfying and difficult surgery Dr. Trevor O’Brien ever performed was on a 50-year-old patient who was in a rollover vehicle accident. She had her arm out the car window at the time of the accident, and her injuries were extensive, with skin torn away from the underlying tissue and tendons exposed. The trauma surgeon she first saw told her that her arm would have to be amputated, but throughout a six-hour operation, Dr. O’Brien took the tissue from her other arm, drained the blood, and plugged the artery and vein into the other side, saving her arm.
Challenges are what Dr. O’Brien, who works at The Center for Plastic Surgery and Skin Care in Traverse City, loves most about his work as a plastic surgeon. It allows him to use complex problem-solving skills, finding solutions to injuries that, at first glance, seem unfixable. “There’s a lot of creativity involved,” he says. “It’s like putting together a puzzle. You’re not just a doctor; you’re also an artist.”
Dr. O’Brien met his business partners Dr. Thomas and Dr. Jeffries, while he was in medical school at Michigan State and did rotations at Munson. Though he had previously been thinking of specializing in pediatric or cardiac medicine, their mentorship made him turn to plastics.
“It’s a big responsibility to be a surgeon,” he says, adding that he’s grateful people put their trust in him and allow him to care for them. One thing that surprised him when he got into plastics was the volume of medical necessary reconstructive work involved.
“It’s not all about boobs and butts,” he says. “The majority is reconstructive.”
In his work, Dr. O’Brien has helped a patient with a dog bite wounds requiring a ten-hour surgery to repair and a total scalp replant on a patient whose long hair got caught in a conveyor belt.
“As you progress through training,” he says, “you figure out whether or not you will be able to handle the horrific situations.”
Dr. O’Brien could not do the work he does without the support of his wife Shanley, a trained rheumatologist. They met in medical school and have an 18 month-old daughter, Honor. As a family, they’re enjoying the close-knit community culture here in Traverse City, which he says fits his personality better than a more impersonal big city, and he and Shanley are hoping to expand their family in 2020.
The clients Dr. O’Brien most enjoys helping are those who want breast reconstruction after devastating cancer diagnoses and treatment. “We get to restore them to a whole person,” he says.
This desire to help his patients feel whole is the driving force behind Dr. O’Brien’s work. He admires Drs. Thomas and Jeffries for their dedication to their patients and the fact that they stay late, work weekends and aren’t afraid to make personal sacrifices. It’s crucial, he says, to think about patients in a holistic sense, not just as a diagnosis on a sheet of paper, but as people.
The Center for Plastic Surgery & Skin Care:
4110 Copper Ridge Dr, Ste 242, Bldg D, Traverse City, MI 49684