Calif. Woman Died, 2 Others Hospitalized After Getting Plastic Surgery from Same Doctor in Tijuana
After undergoing procedures in January, one woman died, another was hospitalized for two weeks, while a third woman continues to suffer from kidney failure
After getting plastic surgery in Mexico on the same day in January, one woman died and two others were hospitalized.
All three procedures took place on Jan. 29 at Art Siluette Aesthetic Surgery in Tijuana, Mexico, and were performed by Dr. Jesús Manuel Báez López, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Keuana Weaver, a 38-year-old mother of two from Long Beach, California, died on the operating table, her mother, Renee Weaver, told the daily newspaper.
Although Keuana did tell her family that she was having some "work done" prior to the trip, her mother believed she was going to Florida. She only learned her daughter had traveled to Mexico after another family member told her of Keuana's death.
"I'm heartbroken. I want to know what happened," Renee, 58, told The San Diego Union-Tribue.
"Keuana was a very independent woman; a good, loving, smart and very intelligent Black woman," she added. "I'm mostly sad this happened to my daughter because she was already so beautiful to me, inside and out, she just couldn't see it."
A health document provided by Keuana's mother listed her cause of death as "secondary hypoxic encephalopathy," a kind of brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation.
Keuana's friend Kanisha Davis, a nurse, told the newspaper that they both scheduled liposuction and tummy tucks for the same day with the same doctor.
Davis recalled being concerned at the time because she was not hooked up to any monitors during the surgery, and she was released immediately. "Me being a nurse, I knew something was off," she told The San Diego Union-Tribue.
After learning that Keuana had died, Davis returned home to California and began bleeding internally and projectile vomiting. An emergency room visit turned into a two-week hospital stay, where Davis learned she was hemorrhaging inside.
"If I hadn't gone into the hospital when I did, I would have died," she said. "Did we know we were taking a risk being in Mexico? Yes. But did we ever, at any time, think that risk would be death? No."
Neither Báez López nor the clinic responded to multiple requests for comment from The San Diego Union-Tribue. The clinic has not responded to PEOPLE's request for comment.
When reached by the outlet, The Asociación Mexicana de Cirugía Plástica, Estética y Reconstructiva, A.C., an association of plastic surgeons, said that Báez was not a member of their organization.
According to state law in Baja California, the Mexican state where Tijuana is located, only certified plastic surgeons are permitted to perform certain cosmetic procedures, including liposuction and tummy tucks.
Authorities in Baja California told the newspaper that they are looking into Keuana's death.
"We're working very hard to make sure that doctors who are practicing without the proper credentials are immediately shut down and are investigated by the Attorney General," Atzimba Villegas, the state director of medical tourism, said in a statement. "It's essential for the entire industry that patients feel safe and are well cared for and get the results they are looking for."
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A third woman, who did not know Davis and Keuana, also underwent a surgical procedure at the clinic on the same day.
Esmeralda Iniguez told The San Diego Union-Tribue that she was first hospitalized in California days after Keuana's death, after almost dying from septic shock. Since then, she has continued to suffer from kidney failure.
"I was so septic by the time I reached the ER in Chula Vista on February 3rd, I was literally hours from death. My kidneys were shutting down," Iniguez, who was hospitalized again this month, told the newspaper.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning in 2019 regarding health dangers related to undergoing plastic surgery in Mexico, which can be cheaper than in the United States.
The warning was issued after 11 Americans returned home with antibiotic-resistant infections, according to NBC Los Angeles. The majority of the procedures performed were weight-loss surgeries.
"There are many websites that advertise for these procedures," Dr. Dennis Orgill, the medical director of Brigham and Women's Hospital Wound Care Center in Boston, told The Chicago Tribune at the time.
"Some surgeons in these countries are excellent, but sometimes it is hard for patients to tell the difference by looking on the internet," he continued. "It's that inability to properly vet international services, providers and regulations that ultimately gives rise to a large public health issue."