A New York woman died after undergoing a tummy tuck in the Dominican Republic on the Fourth of July – the third American to lose their life after going under knife with the same doctor in the past few weeks.
Alexandra Medina, 33, traveled from New York to the Caribbean Island last Wednesday, against the wishes of her family members, after finding Dr. Felix Almanzar via realself.com.
The mom-of-one was scheduled to have the surgery at the Santo Domingo clinic on Thursday morning, but her family became increasingly concerned that they hadn’t heard from her as they day progressed.
Desperate text messages between her mother, Kanny Toro, and a member of staff, showed her begging for news about her condition.
‘She’s awake?’ Toro asked, ‘Please let me see her’. She also asked for a ‘pic’ after the staffer informed her that Medina had to remain in recuperation but that she was ‘not at the room yet.’
Hours later, Toro sent a Spanish-written message indicating, ‘I called the police,’ while adding, ‘please Wanda tell me my daughter is alive!!! Please!!!!!! I’m begging you.’
Medina was pronounced dead after suffering respiratory failure in the early hours of Saturday morning, according to Dominican outlet Noticias Sin.
DailyMail.com contacted Ureña Arias Clinic but a spokesperson said that the medical facility was not providing any information to the press during the investigation.
DailyMail also reached out to Medina’s family for comment.
Toro, who had begged her not to go after reading multiple negative reviews about the doctor online, is distraught.
‘I’ve lost everything. I feel I’ve lost my soul, like if it was being stripped out of my body, Toro told Univision.
‘Everyone, her dad, me, the whole family told her not to do it,’ Toro added.
Medina is the third patient to die under the watch of Dr. Almanzar since June.
Sharlim Almanzar Paulino, 26, also from New York, underwent six plastic surgery procedures with Almanzar at a local clinic on June 20.
She died June 25 after she returned and complained of severe pains, and died within three hours of a corrective operation that was done on her surgical wounds.
Almanzar Paulino, who leaves behind a six-year-old son, had originally scheduled a single breast reduction surgery but was persuaded to have additional procedures by Almanzar on her buttocks, arms, back and abdomen, a family member told Telenocias RD.
Alabama high school teacher, Alicia Renette Williams, 45, died June 7 after suffering blood clots from going under the knife June 2, according to WFAB.
Her family said Williams visited the Dominican Republic ‘to have elective procedures.’
‘She’s a mother. She has a 14-year-old son. She got her bachelor’s from Jacksonville State University and she went on to get her master’s degree in English,’ said family friend Dr. Myla Bennett.
Medina, from Yonkers, New York, leaves behind her 14-year-old son and her husband.
Her mother said that Medina had been saving for years to get a tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty. After finally saving enough money, she was originally planning to have it in Colombia to do it before she settled on the Dominican Republic.
Now her family has set up a We Want Justice for Alexandra Facebook page to demand answers for her death.
A March 2019 report in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery journal found that the Dominican Republic may be the most dangerous place to travel abroad for plastic surgery.
Researchers looked at cases of post-surgery infections over a 14-year period and found that nearly half of them were from the Caribbean country.
Several reports have come out of women suffering complications – and in some cases dying – after undergoing procedures with poor hygiene from doctors that are not well-qualified and in clinics that are under-regulated.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued warnings about visiting the Dominican Republic for surgery after dozens of reports of women coming down with potentially fatal infections post-surgery.
The team, from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, says the findings highlight the dangers of so-called ‘medical tourism’ and that patients should think twice before they consider leaving the US for low-cost procedures.
They analyzed postoperative infections that were treated in the US after the elective surgeries were done abroad between 2003 and 2017.
Of the 42 cases, a shockingly high 20 were from the Dominican Republic.
Some other countries included Mexico, Thailand, China, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela. The top three procedures that resulted in complications were tummy tucks, breast reductions and liposuction.
Researchers found the two most common infections found were Mycobacterium abscessus and Mycobacterium fortuitum – antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that are found in water, soil and dirt.
These are the same bacteria that the CDC issued a warning about in 2016 after at least 18 women from six Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states contracted these infections from five different clinics in the Dominican Republic.
‘These infections are often diagnosed late because of a low clinical suspicion, and patients experience a prolonged clinical course involving multiple operations and medications,’ the authors wrote in their report.
The team notes that many women travel to countries such as the Dominican Republic due to the low cost.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgery, the average cost of a breast augmentation is more than $3,700.
But this doesn’t include costs such as anesthesia, so the final price can be as high as $10,000.
In the Dominican Republic, however, the total price is as low as $2,500.
‘Unfortunately, not all procedures performed abroad adhere to strict hygienic regulations, and bacterial flora vary,’ the authors write.
‘As a result, it is not uncommon for consumers to return home with difficult-to-treat postoperative infections.’
There have been a number of cases – mostly from New York – in the last few years who traveled to the Dominican Republic for surgery and died as a result.
New Yorker, Manuel Núñez, 29, traveled back to his native Dominican Republic and died while undergoing his third liposuction June 10 with a separate doctor.
Last August, 25-year-old Johana Gonzalez, of New York, died of a heart attack moments before her liposuction was scheduled to take place.
In 2017, Janelle Edwards, 25, from New York, died of a blood clot caused by her surgeries – a breast enhancement, a tummy tuck and a butt implant – in the Dominican Republic, reported the New York Daily News.
In 2014, 29-year-old Beverly Brignoni, of New York, died of a pulmonary embolism on the operating table in Santo Domingo where she’d gone to have a tummy tuck.
The New York Daily News reported that, in August 2009, Maurisa Hunte, 21, from Long Island, suffered a massive heart attack while undergoing breast reduction and liposuction after she was given a fatal dose of adrenaline.
After dozens of reports of botched operations, the CDC and the US Department of State warned Americans to stop visiting the country
Another study last year appeared to confirm the worry after looking at 78 American patients who were admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, after undergoing plastic surgery abroad.
Of the patients, who were admitted between 2010 and 2017, 75 percent of them had undergone operations in the Dominican Republic
They had several complications including life-threatening infections, pain that wasn’t subsiding, scarring and unhealed wounds.
The authors of that report believe that either the American College of Surgeons or the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) should develop guidelines regarding medical tourism.
Dr Jeffrey Janis, then-president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons told HealthDay that patients must make sure they thoroughly research the surgeon and clinic.
‘The ASPS does not allow you to become a member unless you’ve passed a rigorous training program by the Board of Plastic Surgeons, which attests to the fact that you’ve been well-trained and can safely practice plastic surgery,’ he said.
‘So if you go outside the U.S. you really should seek someone equally qualified.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Adry Torres and Mary Kekatos