Surgery abroad goes wrong af­ter in­fec­tion takes hold

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK -

I’m 42, and the mother of three chil­dren. I love my kids, but af­ter many years of want­ing to do some­thing about my “mommy belly,” I de­cided to have a tummy tuck. As a woman of color, my pref­er­ence was for a sculpted, curvy shape. For aes­thetic rea­sons, I liked the work be­ing done in a cer­tain for­eign coun­try. That it was cheaper there was an added plus. Af­ter months of re­search­ing, I set­tled on a board-cer­ti­fied doc­tor. His be­fore and af­ter pic­tures were great, and I was told that he and the clinic had a “zero per­cent in­fec­tion rate.”

Two weeks af­ter I re­turned home, things quickly went bad. Fluid drained from my tummy tuck and belly but­ton in­ci­sions. A lo­cal plas­tic sur­geon sent me im­me­di­ately to an emer­gency room.

At the ER, my fever was 102 and I was ad­mit­ted to the hos­pi­tal, where I was di­ag­nosed with my­cobac­terium ab­sces­sus in­fec­tion. I was hos­pi­tal­ized for 11 days and had surgery to man­u­ally clear the in­fec­tion from my ab­domen. I was sent home with a PICC line so I could con­tinue re­ceiv­ing my IV meds at home. Two months af­ter my elec­tive surgery, I can­not stand up straight due to the pain. The ex­pe­ri­ence has been aw­ful, and it’s still far from over. I’m still on IV an­tibi­otics, have daily nurs­ing vis­its, mul­ti­ple vis­its to the ER and have had mul­ti­ple surg­eries.

I won’t be able to work for three to six months, and my med­i­cal bills are over $100,000. (Thank good­ness I have health in­surance!) The side ef­fects of the meds I’m on are nau­sea, di­ar­rhea, lack of ap­petite and drowsi­ness.

It’s hard for me to take care of my­self or my chil­dren. I feel guilty about the pain I’m caus­ing my fam­ily, and I’m so de­pressed I don’t like go­ing places and have with­drawn from those clos­est to me.

I know in­fec­tions are a risk with any sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure and this could have hap­pened in Amer­ica, but the fact is, this in­fec­tion is known to be caused by poor ster­il­iza­tion in the OR, and this should have been avoid­able if the proper ster­il­iza­tion pro­ce­dures were fol­lowed.

When I con­tacted the doc­tor who did my surgery, he de­nied that I got it from him. He of­fered to re­pair any cos­metic dam­age, but I’d be crazy to go back there for ad­di­tional pro­ce­dures. He’s in no way ac­count­able, and the sys­tem over there pro­motes that. As an Amer­i­can, I have no re­course. I’m just stuck here suf­fer­ing.

I know oth­ers may have had won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ences, but I want to shed light on life af­ter surgery abroad that went wrong. I also want to en­cour­age oth­ers to make sure they plan for the worst-case sce­nario: Con­sider who will pro­vide ex­tended care to your kids dur­ing pe­ri­ods of hos­pi­tal­iza­tion, how you will pay your as­tro­nom­i­cal med­i­cal bills, and whether you can af­ford liv­ing on re­duced or no in­come for the du­ra­tion of treat­ment, which can be sev­eral months.

Thanks for print­ing this, Abby. — Les­son learned

DEAR LES­SON LEARNED >> Wow. I’m very sorry you learned all this the hard way. I hope your ex­pe­ri­ence will alert read­ers to the fact that there’s risk in­volved when con­sid­er­ing surgery in coun­tries where the reg­u­la­tion of hos­pi­tals and sur­gi­cal fa­cil­i­ties may not be up to Amer­i­can stan­dards.

Dear Abby

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