Homestead - South Dade

Homestead mom lies in coma from breast augmentation

Linda Pérez checked into The Coral Gables Cosmetic Center, eagerly anticipating what the clinic’s website promised its breast implants would deliver: “a state of great personal satisfaction and well-being.”

But something went wrong during the operation three weeks ago to insert saline implants. Now the 18-year-old Homestead mother of a 3-year-old son lies in a deep coma at Mercy Hospital.

Mark Eiglarsh, an attorney for Pérez’s mother, Mariela Díaz, and stepfather, Fernando Izquierdo, said that doctors have told them “not to be optimistic. They’re continuing to do procedures and they’re hoping for a miracle.”

Eiglarsh said that Pérez “suffered extensive heart and brain damage as a direct result of the procedure and remains in critical condition, fighting for her life.”

Even by the surgery center’s own guidelines, Perez might not have been the best candidate for breast augmentation. Its website notes that because “breast tissue can still be developing into the early 20s, breast enlargement surgery is generally recommended for adult women in their mid-twenties and beyond. In certain cases, teenagers may have the procedure. …”

Eiglarsh points the finger not at Dr. Jacob Freiman, the board-certified surgeon who worked on Pérez, but at Dr. Mario Alberto Díaz, who administered the anesthesia at the clinic, 1800 SE 27th Ave.

Díaz is a convicted felon who went to federal prison for illegally selling 71,015 “dosage units of controlled substances” — pills — online. He pleaded guilty in March 2006 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa.

In Aug. 2007, the Florida Department of Health reached an agreement with Díaz that allowed him to keep his license, albeit after a one-year suspension following his incarceration and thereafter under “direct supervision” of a licensed physician.

Díaz, who was licensed to practice anesthesiology in Georgia, from 1981-1995, agreed to pay a fine of $6,311.95, perform 100 hours of community service and serve two years of probation. He’s permanently prohibited from “any Internet prescribing,” thus his Florida license will always carry an “obligations” notation.

In an email, Díaz said he had no comment and referred inquiries to his lawyer, Benito Díaz, who likewise didn’t want to say anything, including whether he and his client are related.

The Health Department website indicates that Díaz was an anesthesiology resident for two years but did not tell the department what type of certification he held that allowed him to practice that specialty, as the department requires.

Díaz is not a certified member of the American Board of Anesthesiology, which is part of the American Board of Specialties.

In his post-operative notes, Freiman writes that Pérez no longer smoked, said she’d had an uneventful pregnancy and delivery, never had cardiac problems or difficulties with anesthesia, but had some sort of seizure when she was 10.

Freiman wrote that Pérez especially didn’t like how far apart her breasts were and urged him to get the maximum expansion out of the 240 cc implants he intended to place. He wrote that his part of the surgery went well, but when he was done, the anesthesiologist advised him that the patient needed “support for the blood pressure and heart rate.”

In handwritten notes for a Health Department report, Freiman said that when he spoke to Mariela Díaz at Mercy, she said that her daughter had a similar problem when she gave birth and had to be intubated

“None of this was known preoperatively,” Freiman wrote. “I believe that the patient hid this fact from me for fear that [she] might not have surgery.”

Through her lawyer on Wednesday, the mother denied she’d ever told Freiman her daughter had had problems with anesthesia or had been intubated.

Linda Pérez, who came to South Florida from Cuba when she was 9, lives her her son, Dainier Pérez, and her parents. She worked at the Pink Pony adult nightclub in Doral, and has medical coverage under Medicaid.

On a Facebook page that someone took down after the incident, Pérez talked about having had buttocks enlargement surgery. And her mother told el Nuevo Herald that her daughter “likes to look pretty” and was overly concerned about her breasts.

“She thought that they were going to grow after her pregnancy, but that didn’t happen.”

Mariela Díaz said that her daughter had visited another clinic for the operation, but saw a television commercial for Coral Gables Cosmetic Center.

“She told me that that clinic was more trustworthy, saying that it’s a ‘prestige clinic. Nothing will go wrong there,’ ” Díaz told El Nuevo Herald.

Relatives say that Pérez had been healthy and didn’t take drugs.

“She was in perfect condition. She was taking care of herself before the Aug. 12 operation,” a friend, Joan Pérez told el Nuevo Herald.

Clinic attorney Kubs Lalchandani said an email on Tuesday that “for privacy reasons, Coral Gables Cosmetic Center cannot comment on any medical issues related to its patients.”

He said the center “has been a proud member of the South Florida community for nearly 15 years and has consistently delivered exceptional results for thousands of satisfied patients. CGCC prides itself on partnering with top medical professionals including board-certified plastic surgeons. CGCC is committed to upholding the highest standards of medical care and patient safety.”

Izquierdo said through a translator that his daughter is “a beautiful, healthy woman inside and out, and a very loving mother.”

Eiglarsh said that young women seeking bargain cosmetic surgery need to do careful research.

“You read their literature and you see that the doctors are board certified, but they’re hiding that the anesthesiologist is a felon.’’

Pérez almost did not undergo the $2,800 procedure that Monday morning. Joan Perez told El Nuevo Herald that he drove her to the clinic at 6:30 a.m. but the place seemed to be closed.

As they turned to leave, the surgeon phoned Linda Perez and told her he was ready.

Joan Pérez said he stayed with Linda while a technician prepped her for surgery, then went to a waiting room at 7 a.m., having been told the procedure would last about 30 minutes.

At some point he left the waiting room and went to her car.

At 9 a.m., a worried Joan Perez returned to the clinic and saw an ambulance. Freiman, the surgeon, told him that Linda had “retention of anesthesia” and was being sent to the hospital for monitoring.

Freiman left in the ambulance with his patient.

At Mercy, Joan, Mariela Díaz and Fernando Izquierdo, learned that Linda was unconscious.

Her relatives say that the neurologist who operated on Linda at Mercy Hospital on Aug. 13 told them that the young woman’s blood pressure plummeted after the implant surgery.

According to the family, clinic doctors gave Pérez medication to stabilize her, which raised her blood pressure and triggered a heart attack.

“The neurologist told me that [the clinic] delivered her practically dead,” the mother said.

The family maintains that no one would tell them what happened for more than a week, so they hired a lawyer.

Freiman “told me that he didn’t know what had happened,” Mariela Díaz said.

Said Izquierdo: “From the start, they concealed from us the gravity of her state.”