A Miami plastic surgery clinic with aggressive marketing that drew patients from across the country is under investigation after eight of its patients, all healthy, relatively young women, died from complications. Here is a brief outline of each victim’s case as reported in January 2019 by USA Today and Naples Daily News:
- Heather Meadows, 29, from West Virginia — An autopsy showed cause of death was “a fat embolism” after cosmetic surgery (Brazilian butt lift) in 2016. A follow-up report by the Florida Department of Health cited “critical breakdowns in the operating room,” such as failing to perform an exam before the procedure and rushing through the operation in half the normal time. But “the most serious mistake” was “when [the surgeon] injected her body fat into a deep vein in her buttocks – an area where doctors are warned to avoid – allowing the fat to enter her bloodstream.” That fat apparently “traveled into her heart and lungs, killing her.”
- Maribel Hernandez, 51, from Naples, Florida — Ms. Hernandez had tried to cancel her Brazilian butt lift, but the clinic would not issue a refund. Rather than lose $3,000, she went through with the operation. “Soon after…her blood pressure dropped, and she struggled to breathe. The clinic staff called an ambulance, which rushed her to Kendall Regional Medical Center. She was later pronounced dead.”
An autopsy review revealed that Anthony Hasan, the surgeon who performed the procedure but was not board certified in plastic surgery, had injected fat “into the very area that doctors are supposed to avoid: the deep, gluteal muscles.” Experts stated, “veins in that area were torn” and “the fat had entered her bloodstream, traveling to [the] lungs and shutting down her vital organs.”
- Tola Warren-St. Clair, 43, from New York — The evening after her tummy tuck surgery in 2014, Ms. Warren-St. Clair was experiencing severe pain. Rather than dial 911, “she called an emergency number provided by the clinic and was told to return to the facility.” Arriving in the morning, she was seen by nurses and released about 5 p.m., though she needed help to walk to her vehicle. She was “found dead in her bed about four hours later.”
- Jasmine Smith, 30, from Union, NJ — She “died of blood clots and other complications five days after her Brazilian butt lift … in 2017.” A doctor who reviewed the case said that “because Smith was taking an injectable contraceptive that can cause blood clots,” the surgeon should have “waited four months from her last injection to avoid any complications.” However, Smith’s decision to fly home so quickly after surgery might also have triggered the blood clots.
- Elizabeth Morales, 41, from Hialeah, Florida — To compete in bodybuilding contests, Ms. Morales had a tummy tuck and breast lift but died just five days after surgery from blood clots and complications.
- Maria Christian, 32, from Florida — More than an hour into her tummy tuck surgery, Ms. Christian’s heart slowed and a nurse “gave her a drug to increase her rate, but … she went into cardiac arrest.” A staff member called 911, but “when the paramedics arrived, Clinic staff blocked them from the front entrance and sent them around to the rear.” Five crucial minutes were lost. “Christian was rushed to the hospital, where she was declared dead. An autopsy found she died from micro blood clots and complications of the surgery.”
- Kizzy London, 40, from Louisiana —After a Brazilian butt lift, Ms. London went into cardiac arrest and expired. The cause of death was blood clots and complications. “The Florida health department later said the 75-year-old surgeon who performed the operation was not adequately trained to do the procedure.”
- Ranika Hall, 25, from Missouri — The youngest woman to die, Ms. Hall passed away just three weeks after Ms. Smith, “after undergoing a Brazilian butt lift operation… in 2017 when her surgeon injected her own body fat so deep in a muscle, it tore veins and allowed the fat to enter her bloodstream.”
These horror stories demonstrate how important it is to investigate a surgical facility and the doctors involved in any surgery, as well as the procedure itself. Patients should consider whether they want to run the risk of having surgery anywhere but a hospital.
What is the facility’s capacity for handling complications? How long would it take for help to arrive if you went into distress? If you are considering cosmetic surgery, you should definitely take a close look at this list of steps to take before scheduling a procedure.
As to the operation, there are reputable plastic surgeons who will not perform certain risky procedures. Dr. Arthur W. Perry, who examined many of the records of the women listed above, calls the Brazilian butt lift “deadly.” He writes, “Last August, a task force found that BBLs had a death rate of up to 1 in 3,000, the highest from any aesthetic procedure.” And these patients tend to be young and healthy. Yet, BBLs have a worse mortality rate than gall bladder surgery for patients older than 50. If the risk is unacceptable for the surgeon, a patient should take pause.