A HARROWING EXPERIENCE
Espinosa was referred to the Dominican-based doctor from acquaintances whose surgeries he’d also performed, and she headed to the Caribbean for a surgery she felt was a steal. The package, which included surgery, travel, and five nights lodging, totaled $4,200. “I didn’t tell my family because they would have tried to talk me out of it,” she says. Before the surgeries, Espinosa asked the doctor several important questions, but was reluctant to ask more pertinent ones for fear of losing the sweetheart deal. Although he was not a certified plastic surgeon, he assured her that he’d performed these procedures successfully on many occasions.
Espinosa admits that she withheld information about her liver, medical history, and certain medications she was taking because of her fear of capsizing the deal. During a 25-minute consultation the day before her surgery, she and the doctor discussed her recovery time, bruising, and the need for follow-up care to remove her stitches. However, the focus of the conversation was on the initial $2,000 cash payment. Espinosa adds, “I was still trying to negotiate a price for breast implants; it became a flea market.”
The surgery was traumatic. “The operating room was dingy and old-fashioned. In the corner was a box similar to a trough for feeding horses. I thought of hospitals in the U.S., my instincts kicked in, and I became hysterical,” she recalls. To make matters worse, the doctor now disclosed that a previous patient’s death had been attributed to anesthesia complications. “I was terrified, but here I was naked and prepped for surgery in a foreign country. There was no turning back.” Espinosa was strapped upside down on a gurney, with a cloth placed over her head. Several minutes into the surgery she felt immense pressure from the tubes placed into her body, which quickly developed into full-blown pain. Panic mounting, she noticed the doctor removing surgical equipment from the trough-like box. “My physical agitation annoyed the doctor. He gave me another sedative and told me to be quiet so he could do what he needed to do.”