At the start of Dr. Dale Abadir’s career she experienced a life-threatening accident that prepared her to serve her patients over the last four decades in a way that nothing else could have done. Abadir was almost burned alive when a can of lighter fluid exploded in her right hand while she was trying to start a fire in her fireplace in her Mamaroneck home.
“I was completely engulfed in flames,” Abadir said. She tried to get to the nearest bathroom to get under a stream of water but luckily the housekeeper found her and threw a bath towel over her to put out the fire.
Abadir suffered third-degree burns on 65 percent of her body and her eyes were badly burned. When she woke up at New York University hospital after a few days in a coma she was paralyzed in her right arm and leg. Doctors did not think she would ever recover.
“They gave me a ten percent chance of recovery,” she said.
Abadir had recently finished her residency at New York University Dermatology and was on the path of being one of the youngest cosmetology surgeons in the country. The Vietnam War gave her a leg up in the field when all the young men in cosmetic surgery were drafted to war, she said. She also had a head start because in Australia, where she was born and raised, the medical school system is six years and she completed junior and high school in five years.
After five months in the hospital, Abadir was released in May, 1972. Her right arm function returned quickly and her leg took years to return and is almost back to normal, 41 years later.
Today, at her current Rye Brook office, Abadir greets patients with a smile, her skin smooth and even toned after many decades of treatments. She mostly does cosmetic surgery and skin cancer screenings and treatments. She also teaches at Albert Einstein Hospital in the Bronx.
“It is all very satisfying,” Abadir said of her work.
Many of the procedures Abadir performs are ones she has undergone herself. Skin grafts, excisions, scar camouflage (tattooing skin tones on scars) and laser treatments. She treats post-surgery patients, post-acne, and post-traumatic scarring but has not seen many burn victims, although she said she would like to see more since she feels she could relate.
“I had the experience I had and know a great deal about it and what can be done and it is gratifying to help people,” she said.
One of the greatest advancements in the field is the fractionated laser, which can vaporize minute holes in the skin that heal up quickly because they are small. “It basically replaces the whole skin with no down time,” Abadir said.
Abadir’s daughter followed in her footsteps and joined her mother’s practice in 1995. She and other doctors have performed many of Abadir’s procedures.
Abadir said her daughter chose the profession mostly because “she saw how satisfying it was that its not the kind of field where you have to get out at night and take night calls. Every time I had a baby I could go to work a few afternoons a week and could work part time when kids were young.”
“It’s a very versatile field and really good for women with families,” said Abadir, who is the mother of four now-adult children.
While her accident reinforced her desire to help others through plastic surgery, it also affected her on a very personal level.
“You certainly get a different perspective in life when you go through something like that,” she said. “You don’t get so concerned with the small things.”
Abadir understands patients who are embarrassed by scars that may seem small, or patients who want to rid themselves of acne scars that are reminders of a difficult teenage-phase.
“Unfortunately appearance is important these days, probably more than it should be. The people who have scarring that you help you see a lot of self esteem changes and happy people. It is very gratifying to me to see that.”
Dr. Abadir practices with her daughter Dr. Michelle Abadir at 90 South Ridge Street, Rye Brook, NY. Visit their website here.