CORRECTION: The Florida Department of Health provided incorrect information on the status of Dr. Mario Alberto Diaz's medical license. He has met his disciplinary requirements and is allowed to practice medicine in Florida, the Department of Health said Wednesday.
If Mariela Diaz could travel back in time, she would go back to Monday morning, Aug. 12, 2013, and block her teenage daughter from going to a cosmetic surgery clinic for a breast augmentation procedure.
Five minutes after the surgery at Coral Gables Cosmetic Center, 1800 SW 27th Ave, Linda Perez, 18 at the time, started developing problems when her heart rate and blood pressure dropped significantly, causing her to become unconscious, barely breathing. After the doctor who administered the anaesthesia tried to resuscitate her for more than 30 minutes, she had to be transported by ambulance to Mercy Hospital, where she lay comatose for weeks.
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She had suffered severe brain damage, due to a lack of oxygen to the brain, according to state records. When she left the hospital, she was unable to move or speak.
Today, Linda Perez, now 21 and mother of a 6-year-old son, has gained back some weight, can speak a few words and can stand alone for a few seconds. Doctors have told her mother she will never recover fully. The family is struggling financially and their attorneys have set up a gofundme.com campaign to help with her medical expenses.
“No one would want to live just a tiny bit of what I have lived,” said Mariela Diaz, who takes care of her daughter and grandson. “I tell the daughters and mothers to think it over before going to those clinics, because they never know how they are going to come out. They should accept what they have naturally.”
Her daughter already had undergone a buttocks augmentation procedure before the breast augmentation procedure.
The Florida Department of Health filed an administrative complaint against the physician who administered the anesthesia, Dr. Mario Alberto Diaz of Miami. According to the settlement agreement with the Department, Diaz has to pay a $10,000 fine and complete 15 hours of Continuing Medical Education. As of Tuesday, a Department of Health spokesman said Diaz had not provided documentation to the Florida Board of Medicine that he had completed the 15 hours of coursework. As such, he cannot practice medicine in Florida, the Health Department spokesman said.
On Wednesday, the Department of Health rechecked its records and discovered that Diaz had completed the 15 hours of Continuing Medical Education course requirements.
So, he can practice medicine in the state of Florida.
He did pay the $10,000 fine on Jan. 6, 2016, and on Jan. 12, 2016, paid an additional $11,288.37 to reimburse the Department of Health for its investigative costs. Additionally, he has to complete a medical records course by the Florida Medical Association by Dec. 15, 2016. Diaz, who did not return an email to him Tuesday night, did not admit nor deny the allegations in the complaint, according to state records.
Cases like this are not uncommon in South Florida. In fact, there were 46 office surgery deaths in Florida from 2000-2010, the latest period that data are available.
Earlier this month, Heather Meadows, a 29-year-old West Virginia mother of two young children, died after undergoing a fat transfer procedure at Encore Plastic Surgery in Hialeah. The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office said she died from fat clots that entered her bloodstream during a fat transfer procedure, causing her heart and lungs to fail.
Just a week before Meadows died, on May 7, Catherine Gonzalez, a 19-year-old from Hialeah, was hospitalized for eight days after suffering three respiratory arrests following a liposuction at Encore Plastic Surgery.
Another woman, Yahaira Espada, traveled from the U.S. Army base at Fort Greely, Alaska, to Miami in January for a liposuction and butt augmentation at Vanity Cosmetic Surgery, which is affiliated with Encore Plastic Surgery. She found the center on the internet.
The procedure cost $5,000, said Espada, but the results were far from her wish for “a butt like Kim Kardashian's.” She now has a six-inch lump on her hip. She said it is painful, and she cannot move.
The Florida Department of Health has charged physicians who work at Encore Plastic Surgery and two other clinics, Vanity Cosmetic Surgery and Spectrum Aesthetics in Miami, with medical malpractice and employing unlicensed professionals. Police and federal authorities have charged other doctors affiliated with the clinics with attempted murder, kidnapping and prescription drug fraud.
The Florida Department of Health is trying to revoke the license of the doctor who performed Espada's procedure, Osakatukei “Osak” Omulepu, for medical malpractice after he seriously injured four patients in three days in May 2015.
In the case of Linda Perez, the administrative complaint says Diaz should have responded “in a more aggressive and timely fashion’’ to deal with Perez’s sudden drop of blood pressure. The complaint also said Diaz failed to provide an adequate airway for assisted breathing during the prolonged resuscitation process.
The Florida Department of Health is familiar with Diaz, a convicted felon who went to federal prison for illegally selling pills online. He pleaded guilty in March 2006 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa.
In August 2007, the Florida Department of Health reached an agreement with Diaz that allowed him to keep his license, after a one-year suspension following his prison term. The department stipulated that he be placed under “direct supervision” of a licensed physician.
Today, the state’s license verification website indicates Diaz’s license is active with obligations.
Mariela Diaz said she still hopes that some day “justice will be done” in her daughter's case. She has not explained to her grandson, Dainier, who just started elementary school, why his mother cannot play or speak with him.
“You can imagine. He's a little kid. What can I tell him? I tell him that his mother is sick,” said Diaz, whose family is in Cuba. “He asks me why his mother can't run with him, carry him and dance with him, like she used to.”
Helping her daughter to sip water from a baby cup with images of Minnie Mouse last week, Diaz said she feels like she's raising two children.
Her daughter “is like a baby again. I have to teach her to eat, carry her to the bathroom, help her to take little steps,” said Diaz. “Her son is the one who helps me to take care of her.”
A previous version of this story did not have an update on the doctor's licensing status from the Florida Department of Health.