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Total Makeover

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Even as more than 20,000 people applied for all-expenses-paid radical redos on the new season of ABC’s Extreme Makeover, many Americans are revamping themselves on their own dime – despite potentially serious health consequences. When her plastic surgeon warned that the risks ranged from infection to death, Donna Timmons listened carefully. “They are literally cutting you apart and putting you back together,” she says. So did the warning give her second thoughts? “I couldn’t get there fast enough,” she admits. Neither, it seems, could the other determined people whose stories follow.

Alicia Qui ones

• gastric bypass
• breast lift and augmentation
• tummy tuck
• thigh lift
• hair color and highlights
• tooth bleaching
total cost: $35,000

The new Alicia Qui ones made her official debut on Sept. 6 at 2:35 in the afternoon in the Gap store at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles. “I’ve waited since I was 10 years old for this,” she said as she checked out the fit of a pair of brown boot-cut cords. “I got into a size 8! Low cut! I can’t believe it!” Given that she was a size 24 just 18 months ago, Qui ones, 24, has reason to celebrate. But her 130-lb. weight loss, much of it achieved after gastric bypass surgery in April 2002, isn’t the only thing contributing to her new confidence. After the 5’4″ Qui ones shrank to a size 12 within a year, she wanted more. “I wanted to be fabulous,” she says. “I wanted to wear my sister’s cool, skinny jeans.”

In August Qui ones, an office manager, checked into a Beverly Hills clinic for a tummy tuck and a thigh lift. A week later she was back for breast work that took her from a size 38B to 36C. Qui ones then bleached her teeth, lightened her hair and began working out to hold her weight at 140 lbs. While she pays off her debt, she has moved in with mom Coco, 54, and sister Claudia, 25. “Alicia,” says Coco, “looks beautiful now, like she is on the inside.” Adds Claudia: “We’re so proud of her – though every time I see her she’s wearing my clothes.”

Donna Timmons

• tummy tuck
• lower-body lift
• inner-thigh lift
• breast lift/augmentation
total cost: $22,000

Donna Timmons’s wake-up call came five years ago, when she threw her back out lifting her daughter Kaelin, then 2. “I needed to do something,” she says. Virtual starvation had failed her, so this time Timmons, 33, tried eating in moderation, coupled with cardio and weight training. In one year she lost 130 lbs. – and got a divorce from Kaelin’s dad. “Losing weight,” she says, “gave me the courage to deal with the situation I was in.”

Still, Timmons, a Web master in Pittsburgh, was not comfortable in her own skin – there was too much of it left from the weight loss. “She had a saddlebag deformity. Her hips and thighs were way out of proportion,” says Pittsburgh plastic surgeon Dennis Hurwitz, who last December performed seven hours of surgery to remove fat and skin. Around that time, Donna met auditor Bob Timmons, 31; they wed in May. “I am much happier,” she says. “I feel I reaped the benefits of the change I made.”

David Bandas

• two tummy tucks
• four liposuctions
• brow lift
• removed bump on nose
• eye lift
• suction to chin and jowls
• fat removed from upper eyelids
• skin removal on arm and lip
• hair transplantation
• gastric bypass surgery
• fat injection from buttocks into left cheek
• abdominal scar removal
• breast lift
• chest lift
• laser of lower eyelids to smooth out wrinkles
• dermabrasion
• face-lift
• microsuction to cheeks
total cost: $126,000

While growing up on a farm in Temple, Texas, David Bandas and his five siblings all struggled with weight problems. “I was morbidly obese,” says David, 51. “I was the funny, fat kid.” Some of that excess weight was hereditary; some of it was the result of poor eating habits. “We ate a lot of down-home cooking,” says his older brother Rick, 60. “We had lots of chicken-fried things.” It wasn’t until David took off for college that he began to feel acutely self-conscious about his girth. He shed 125 lbs. through diet and exercise and then, at age 26, had his first plastic surgery, a tummy tuck. After that, he recalls, “clothes fit better, things just worked better. It encourages you to do more things for yourself.”

As his weight bobbed up and down, those “things” added up to 45 major and minor surgeries. Bandas has tucked and liposuctioned excess skin from his face and body; lifted his eyelids, eyebrows, chest and breasts; removed moles and skin tags; and transplanted hair to his balding pate. “If I weren’t financially successful,” concedes the unattached Bandas, who owns a tax-consulting-services firm in Austin, Texas, “none of this would have been possible.” Of his $126,000 tab, only the $14,000 gastric bypass surgery, which he underwent in 1998 after tipping the scale at 320 lbs., was covered by health insurance. Now a trim 190 lbs., the 6′ Bandas says, at last, “I’m done. I’m happy with where I am.”

Ris West

• two face-lifts
• rhinoplasty
• breast lift
• liposuction
• lip sculpture
• lip lift
• laser resurfacing on face
• fat insertions to fill out cheeks
• Botox treatments
total cost: $100,000

Ten years ago, it seems safe to say, the magic had gone out of Alan and Ris West’s 18-year marriage. When she awakened each day, Alan would look away. “My husband got nauseous looking at my face,” says Ris , 56. Alan, 55, a real estate investor in Boca Raton, Fla., puts it a little more gently. “I felt my wife looked aged,” he says. “She had a great body, but her face needed to look as good.”

In January 1994, after attending a seminar on plastic surgery, Ris (pronounced Reeza) approached Dr. Daniel Man, who practices in Boca Raton. She thought, she said, she might have her eyes done, nothing more. The doctor had other ideas. “Dr. Man suggested I have my entire face reworked,” she says. “So I thought about it.”

Then she went for it. Since 1994, Ris , a homemaker who, at 5′ and 96 lbs., has had a dozen procedures, has reshaped everything from thighs to nose to cheekbones. “I look prettier than I did as a teenager,” she says. “I am thrilled with the results – and I will continue to do whatever is needed to make me look good.”

And what about Alan, who, after all, signed onto the $100,000 that Ris has spent so far on plastic surgery? “My wife looked better and better after each procedure,” he says. “It’s amazing! It was like living with a new woman. Ris is like an annuity; she has improved with age.”