Health Care

She dreamed of getting plastic surgery in Miami. Three days later, she was dead.

New Life Plastic Surgery at 8400 SW Eighth St. in Miami advertises a popular surgical procedure known as a Brazilian butt lift at a financed price of $30 a week.
New Life Plastic Surgery at 8400 SW Eighth St. in Miami advertises a popular surgical procedure known as a Brazilian butt lift at a financed price of $30 a week. Miami Herald

For Adianet Galván Gonzáles and her circle of family and friends, the popular surgical procedure known as a Brazilian butt lift was the thing to do. Galván's aunt had it done about three years ago. So did Galván's future sister-in-law, and many of her friends.

Most of them used the same clinic — New Life Plastic Surgery in Miami. And all of them recovered without medical complications, said Patricia Santos, Galván's aunt.

But not Galván. After having the surgery on June 4, which removed fat from her back and stomach and grafted it to her backside, Galván slipped into a coma. She died three days later at Kendall Regional Medical Center.

The 30-year-old had been thinking about the surgery since before she immigrated to Florida from Cuba about four years ago, said her mother, Arelis Gonzáles, who returned to the Cuban city of Matanzas this week to break the tragic news to family on the island.

"It was a dream she had since Cuba," Gonzáles said in Spanish from Cuba. "But after I lost my daughter, I realized it’s not worth it. Beauty is inside of us, and we have to be content with what God gives us. There are many young people who just want to do it, and they don’t see the risks."

No one at New Life, which advertises Brazilian butt lifts on a lighted billboard outside its clinic on Southwest Eighth Street, would answer questions about the operation Monday. One employee said, "No one died here."

The waiting room was full. Ads offer financing for the operation with payments as low as $30 a week.

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Adianet Galván Gonzáles of Naples in a family photo taken before she traveled to Miami for a Brazilian butt lift surgery at New Life Plastic Surgery in Miami on June 4. Galván was rushed to Kendall Regional Medical Center following the surgery. She died three days later. The Miami-Dade medical examiner has yet to determine the cause of death. Courtesy Patricia Santos

Orlando Llorente — the doctor who performed Galván's surgery, according to her mother — was not at the clinic on Monday. Llorente is board certified in plastic surgery but he does not carry medical malpractice insurance, according to his physician license profile maintained by the Florida Department of Health. He refused to comment Tuesday through his attorney, Patrick Sullivan.

The Miami-Dade medical examiner's office has yet to determine the cause of Galván's death. And Gonzáles said she won't blame anyone until the autopsy is released and she knows what happened.

"When I have the results," she said, "the person who’s responsible is going to pay."

To Santos — Galvan's aunt — the 30-year-old died for the sake of a shapelier body, a risk, she said, that many are willing to take.

"You know how many girls are in that place," she said of New Life, "with a dream that could end in their death?"

Galván is at least the eighth patient to die after undergoing a Brazilian butt lift at a Miami office surgery clinic since 2013. In six of those cases, the Miami-Dade medical examiner ruled that the patients died from fat clots in their hearts or lungs as a complication of surgery. A seventh patient died after returning home to New Jersey, and her autopsy has not been released.

While the medical examiner investigates the cause of Galván's death, Gonzáles wonders what could have been done to save the life of her only daughter. She said Galván entered the clinic at 8 a.m. and left at 3 p.m. Galván was given general anesthesia, Gonzáles said, and the mother believes that New Life should have kept her daughter at the clinic for a few more hours to recover.

"For a person who's just been operated on, to send them home right away, when they're not speaking a word," Gonzáles said. "Nobody knows what happened. Was she having a stroke? Did something else happen that we’re not aware of? If the clinic had kept her longer, maybe she would still be alive."

Because Galván had no known medical conditions, Gonzáles said the family thought that a butt lift would be a simple procedure. During the procedure, surgeons use a metal rod called a cannula to suction fat through a surgical incision, plunging the instrument in and out of the patient’s body. The fat is treated and then grafted to the buttocks through surgical incisions.

Galván, who traveled from her home in Naples on Florida's Gulf Coast, planned to recover in Miami at the home of a friend. But Gonzáles said that after Galván was driven to the friend's house, she was barely conscious. Hours later, Galván was rushed to Kendall Regional, where doctors admitted her to the intensive care unit and placed her on a ventilator. She died three days later.

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Adianet Galván Gonzáles, 30, was rushed to Kendall Regional Medical Center, where doctors admitted her to the intensive care unit and placed her on a ventilator after she had a Brazilian butt lift surgery at New Life Plastic Surgery in Miami. Galván died three days later. The Miami-Dade medical examiner has yet to determine a cause of death. Courtesy Patricia Santos

Family and friends of Galván's say she had been talking about getting cosmetic surgery for at least a few months.

Yaneisys Garcia, who said she went to high school with Galván in Cuba, recalled that her friend was insecure about her appearance.

"She was never happy with her body," Garcia said.

Lester Trastoy, Galván's cousin, said she contacted him a few months before the surgery to ask about the procedure. Trastoy said he works as a surgical assistant at an office surgery center about a block away from New Life.

Trastoy said Gonzáles, Galván's mom, called him from Kendall Regional after her daughter was admitted.

"From what I heard from the doctors at the hospital, they weren’t blaming anyone," he said. "They were just saying it was a complication from the surgery.”

Galván's surgery was originally scheduled for May 17, said Santos, who launched an online fundraiser to help pay for her niece’s funeral costs. But because Galván was a smoker, Santos said, doctors postponed the surgery until June 4. Patients are frequently advised to quit smoking several weeks before surgery because it raises the risk of complications, such as wounds that are slow to heal.

But Santos, speaking about her own experience at New Life, said the clinic does not fully explain the risks to patients.

"They just give you four papers to sign, and 99 percent of people don’t read it," she said. "They just sign."

Said Gonzáles: "Nobody thinks this is going to happen to them."

Gonzáles said she didn't try to dissuade her daughter from getting a Brazilian butt lift because she had wanted to have the operation for so long. Now, as she makes funeral arrangements, Gonzáles said she would advise other mothers to talk their daughers out of it.

"It's not worth it," she said. "That clinic is not going to close, and the girls are not going to stop getting surgery. But something has to be done."

Mirta Abreu talks about her daughter, Catherine Gonzalez, a 19-year-old Hialeah resident who was hospitalized for eight days after suffering several respiratory arrests during a liposuction treatment at Encore Plastic Surgery.

Sarah Blaskey: 305-376-2811, @Blaskey_S

Sonia Osorio: 305-376-2219, @soniaosoriog

Daniel Chang: 305-376-2012, @dchangmiami

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