Patients of Courage logoThe Patients of Courage: Triumph Over Adversity program honors reconstructive plastic surgery patients whose lives were restored through reconstructive plastic surgery and whose charitable actions influence the lives around them.

ASPS members nominate patients who carry an optimistic outlook on life and positively affect people around them, despite the difficulties of their reconstructive procedures.  These extraordinary reconstructive plastic surgery patients are honored by ASPS at its annual scientific meeting.

2010 Patients of Courage

Donna Creighton of Salt Lake City

Donna Creighton was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990. She underwent lumpectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy. In 2000, even after 10 years of eating well, exercising, and taking care of her emotional well-being, she had a new occurrence and underwent mastectomy with immediate TRAM flap reconstruction.

In 2006, Creighton tested positive for BRCA mutation; a mastectomy followed by SGAP flap reconstruction were performed. After the second occurrence, she decided that her healing should include sharing with other women affected by breast cancer. She became very active in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and was ultimately nominated to their national board of directors. In 2004, Donna was asked to join the Image Reborn Foundation as executive director.

Image Reborn is a non-profit organization that hosts free retreats for women with breast cancer. Since joining Image Reborn, Creighton has increased the number of retreats from 3-4 per year, to 12-13 annually. She also recognized the need to customize retreats for women with specific needs. Under her leadership, the Foundation has received many awards, including the prestigious Susan G. Komen recognition for being the most innovative organization.

Marcus Engel of St. Louis

Marcus Engel is now a successful professional speaker and author, but seventeen years ago doctors weren't sure if he would live. He and two friends were struck by a drunk driver who ran a red light, launching Engel from the car. Massive injuries to the face left him blind in both eyes and a facial skeleton in as many pieces as a dropped egg. He had multiple lengthy surgeries to reconstruct the face, chest, abdomen, thigh, and leg fractures and soft tissues injuries.

Following his initial hospitalization, Engel moved away to attend the Colorado School for the Visually Impaired where he learned how to thrive in the world without the aid of his vision. He returned to Southwest Missouri State University and completed his undergraduate degree in 2000.

Engel's experience as a patient gave him a unique perspective that he now shares with healthcare professionals, high school, and college students around the country. He has authored three books that inspire healthcare professionals to excellence and remind how important it is to practice compassionate care and communications. Marcus is now giving back to society by showing courage, but he is also giving back directly to healthcare providers by offering constructive criticism that allows them to be better surgeons and caregivers.

Saydee Robinson of Ann Arbor, Mich.

Saydee Robinson was born with Crouzon Syndrome. Although a little shy, she uses her experiences and knowledge of craniofacial anomalies to teach her peers, teachers and the public about the exceptional challenges confronting people with craniofacial differences. She has undergone over a dozen surgeries by multiple pediatric specialists in her 16 years.

Robinson recalls her most challenging and life-changing surgery involving the placement of rigid external distraction device at 10 years of age. This surgery likely began her quest to teach others about craniofacial anomalies after she explained to her Girl Scout troop what she was wearing and why. Two years later, she shared the information with her 7th grade classmates, and the information was so well received that her teacher encouraged Robinson and her classmates to present this information to the mayor and two local senators. Eventually, that led Robinson to speak in front of the state legislature to propose a Craniofacial Awareness Day for Michigan. Her story was so compelling, the ‘day' turned into Michigan State Resolution No. 147 designating February 2008 as Michigan Craniofacial Month.

Jason Schechterle of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Jason Schecterle, a former Phoenix police officer, was at a stop light in his Crown Victoria police cruiser when a cab, whose driver was having a seizure, struck him from behind traveling approximately 115 mph. His gas tank exploded, trapping him in the car. Fortunately, a fire truck was at the same intersection and firemen were able to pull him from the car. He has received 52 operations to reconstruct fourth degree burns of the head, face and hands.

With a passion for serving and protecting, Schechterle briefly returned to work as a homicide detective but had to retire from the police force because of difficulty firing his service weapon. A beloved member of his community, he is known for giving inspirational speeches to various audiences and was asked to run with the Olympic torch before the 2002 Olympics. He continues to serve and inspire his community by participating in Camp Courage Burn Camp, the 100 Club of Arizona for Police Officers and Firefighters killed in the line of duty, and the Jason Schechterle Annual Scholarship Ball which had over 1,000 attendees last year.