Maribel Cardona, the 51-year-old woman who died shortly after buttocks augmentation surgery performed at Vanity Cosmetic Center in Miami in July, died of complications resulting from the surgery, according to the results of an autopsy.
Cardona, also known as Maribel Hernández, traveled from her home in Naples to the clinic located at 8506 SW Eighth Street for a Brazilian buttocks lift, which is done by extracting fat from the patient’s body, generally the abdomen, and injecting it into the posterior.
Amy Spinelli, Cardona’s neighbor, said that, according to the woman’s five children, Cardona learned about the clinic through a friend and went there because the procedure was inexpensive there.
Spinelli said that, according to the son, Cardona, of Puerto Rican descent, tried to cancel the procedure after her family insisted on the risks involved.
However, Cardona’s son told Spinelli that at the clinic his mother, a Walmart cashier, was told that the down payment of $4,000 would not be refunded, so she went ahead with the surgery.
Cardona, who went to the center with her boyfriend, began to have difficulties breathing shortly after she was taken to the recovery area after the operation, according to the autopsy report.
Anthony Hasan, the doctor who operated on her, said in July that about five minutes after the operation, the anesthesiologist told him that the patient was conscious and talking but that Cardona’s level of oxygen and blood pressure were very low.
Hasan did not return calls from El Nuevo Herald left at the Vanity clinic, where according to the center’s web page and an operator there he is still part of the staff.
Cardona did not respond to medications and was rushed to Kendall Regional Medical Center, where she died a hours later of a lung embolism, or blockage, caused by fatty tissue.
Such embolisms can happen when the tube used to inject the fat pierces blood vessels in the deepest area of the buttocks, inserting fat particles into the bloodstream, said plastic surgeon Onelio García.
“This should not happen [to a surgeon],” said García, a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery with nearly 30 years of experience and a professor at the University of Miami’s plastic surgery division.
Hasan, a dermatologist who is not certified as a plastic surgeon by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, was an intern in general surgery and a fellow for three years in plastic surgery.
In the state of Florida it is legal for any doctor, regardless of their specialty, to perform plastic surgery operations.
Hasan’s profile on the Vanity center’s web page says that he specializes in breast augmentation surgery, as well as liposuctions and tummy tucks. However, there is no mention of any experience in buttocks augmentation surgery.
Hasan said in July that he had been performing cosmetic surgeries since 1999 and that Cardona was his first serious incident with a patient.
In 2007, Hasan was sued for malpractice in Miami-Dade. The surgeon reached a settlement with the plaintiff and therefore it could not be determined whether there had been medical negligence.
Also in July, Hasan was on probation under the indirect supervision of a doctor after pleading guilty of conspiring and cooperating to commit fraud and giving out a prescription medication,Viagra, with labels containing false information.
“Those charges have nothing to do with the practice of surgery,” Hasan said in July. “I lent my name to someone I trusted and he abused it.”
Hasan does not carry malpractice insurance due to its cost, he said. “Like 95 percent of plastic surgeons.”
“I checked everything that had to be checked and, honestly, I don’t believe I could have done anything different,” the doctor said of Cardona’s surgery.
Spinelli remembers Cardona as a woman with a young appearance and spirit, who loved to listen to Latin music and go out dancing with her children.
“Everybody loved her,” Spinelli said. “She was always smiling.”
The death of Maribel Cardona is not the only incident with a patient in the Vanity center.
In November, another patient, Linda Escanaverino, had to be hospitalized for four days and needed a blood transfusion after buttocks augmentation surgery.