Dying for the Promise of Perfection

Sun, surf, and surgery gone awry. Lisa Espinosa's real-life cautionary tale of overseas cosmetics surgery

Nearly three days later, Espinosa woke up in intensive care with excruciating pain and no immediate recollection of the surgery. “The nurses and my friends told me I needed a blood transfusion, my worst fear because I was recovering from hepatitis C and was now in good standing. I was terrified of a relapse of hepatitis C or contracting a blood-borne disease,” Espinosa says. She refused, until the doctor persuaded her to accept plasma to save her life. Days later, she was fitted into a full-bodied compression girdle that concealed multiple bruises and wheeled onto an airplane for a six-hour flight to Philadelphia. “I was given several pain pills and told to go to the emergency room only if I began to bleed excessively from my tummy, but that profuse bleeding from my breasts was normal.”


With greater accessibility and popularity come increased costs. According to ASPS, the average physician fees for popular procedures are $3,348 for breast enlargement, $4,197 for rhinoplasty, $5,167 for abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), and $2,881 for liposuction. Consequently, minority women with moderate incomes––particularly those eager for multiple procedures––sometimes opt for dangerous alternatives that cost 40% to 70% less than U.S. prices: offshore plastic surgery vacation packages.

According to ASPS, statistics are not available on the number of patients who have taken cosmetic surgery vacations. However, it is known that these patients usually mirror the U.S. demographic:  women age 35-50.

For Espinosa, the cost was much higher and not just paid in cash. In August 2007, three years after her initial surgery,  she visited Dr. Watts to rectify the extreme puckering in her breasts. “They’d become shriveled like prunes, my areolas were uneven, and there was a large indentation in the left breast,” she says. Hoping to get a breast implant to fill out the indentations, Espinosa was in for a shock. Watts recalls, “The architecture of her breasts was completely changed. The technique and design of this breast lift followed no known principles I was familiar with.” Complete reconstruction and removal of the scar tissue was necessary to facilitate the development of healthy blood supply requiring two additional surgeries over a period of several months. Watts says, “If this had happened in the U.S., the doctor would have had to explain himself before a medical board or lost his license and, at the most, faced criminal and negligence charges.”

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  • Cuyahoga

    This is a MUST READ for anyone considering a cosmetic procedure. Realize first that you are trusting your body – the ONLY one you have (and it does not regenerate) – to a stranger. If anything goes wrong, anything at all, you must trust this person to do right by you without your immediate oversight or input. This is major surgery and the patient is usually anesthetized, unable to consult, advise or even react. Any invasive procedure requires you should want to be fully apprised of the procedure from beginning to end, that you have developed a rapport with the clinician and you have reviewed references for his work. The option is being scarred for life mentally, emotionally if not physically. How great a deal is that?

  • Very useful information . Thanks for sharing. Many people have similar situations in their lives.

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