The death of a woman undergoing cosmetic surgery at a Hialeah clinic has cast a spotlight on the problems reported there and at a related center by other women looking to enhance their bodies.
Catherine Gonzalez, a 19-year-old Hialeah resident, was hospitalized for eight days after suffering several respiratory arrests during liposuction treatment at Encore Plastic Surgery.
Her mother, Mirta Abreu, told El Nuevo Herald this week about the ordeal suffered by her daughter, “who is alive because of a miracle.”
“Catherine went to that clinic to be prettier, and it almost cost her life,” Abreu said. “She was nearly dead. … She had two respiratory arrests, so they took her to the hospital and on arrival she had a third.”
On May 7, Gonzalez was taken to Palm Springs Hospital in Hialeah from the clinic at 1738 West 49th St.
A week later, Heather Meadows, 29, from West Virginia, died after a Brazilian butt lift procedure at the same Encore Plastic Surgery center. The procedure involves removing fat from the torso and injecting it into the buttocks.
Authorities have said Meadows suffered fat clots in the heart and lungs during the procedure, which collapsed both organs.
Abreu said her daughter Catherine decided to undergo liposuction at Encore Plastic Surgery because of a recommendation from a family friend. They never researched the clinic’s history, she said.
Hialeah police said the Florida Department of Health, which is responsible for licensing clinics and doctors, is investigating Meadows’ death.
Gonzalez is still undergoing rehabilitation therapy and her mother is caring for her in the home they share in Hialeah.
“The authorities should investigate that clinic, and shut it down if necessary,” Abreu said. “This kind of suffering is not worth it. It’s better to be a little plump and enjoy life.”
Nearly 4,000 miles from Hialeah, at the remote Fort Greely military base, Yahaira Espada suffers the consequences of what she calls a case of medical malpractice at Vanity Cosmetic Surgery, a Miami clinic affiliated with Encore Plastic Surgery.
Espada, a Puerto Rican native who has lived with her husband in Alaska for 17 years, decided in 2015 to undergo several cosmetic surgery procedures to improve her figure, among them a Brazilian butt lift.
Searching the internet, she found advertisements by Vanity Cosmetic Surgery.
“They sold me a package over the phone. They sell you dreams, and they pull out your fingernails,” the 41-year-old woman told the Nuevo Herald in a phone interview.
Espada said she was told that for $5,000, a surgeon would perform a liposuction of the outside and inside of her thighs, her back, her waist and chin. The fat would then be injected into her butt. It was a total of 16 esthetic touch-ups.
The woman flew to Miami at the beginning of the year, and immediately ran into problems with clinic employees who refused to fulfill the promise of 16 procedures, she said. She went ahead anyway and underwent surgery on Jan. 12 by Dr. Osakatukei “Osak” Omulepu.
“I wanted a butt like Kim Kardashian when I went into the surgery,” Espada recalled. “You understand that you can have that body. I was Miss Bikini in Puerto Rico.”
But the results were not as promised.
“I have a six-inch knot on the upper part of the hip. It hurts me. I can’t move any more. I have to crawl out of bed to slowly get up,” she said.
Omulepu told her the lump of fat injected to mold her figure would shrink and stop hurting in about six months. It’s been four months, and Espada feels no improvement.
“I have some balls on my butt, and they hurt. It’s been months,” she added.
Espada went to the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington. Doctors told her, she said, that if the lump of fat grew or continued to cause pain, she would have to undergo surgery to remove it.
“I don’t want to be disfigured. I don’t want a six-inch scar,” she told the Nuevo Herald.
Omulepu, the plastic surgeon who operated on Espada, is battling Florida Department of Health efforts to revoke his medical license for negligence, after he was alleged to have caused grave injuries to four patients over two days in May of 2015.