Mommy makeover gone wrong: Woman warns of medical tourism dangers after 'permanently disfigured'

ByErielle Reshef ABCNews logo
Monday, March 13, 2023
Mommy makeover gone wrong: Woman warns of medical tourism dangers after 'permanently disfigured'
A warning from one mom to other Americans about the potential dangers of medical tourism in Mexico.

One mother's treatment gone wrong is serving as a warning about the risks of medical tourism in Mexico.

Millions of Americans travel abroad each year in search of medical, dental and cosmetic procedures.

"I'm permanently disfigured for the rest of my life, and that's something I did not expect to prepare for," said Shannyn Palmer, who suffered burns after plastic surgery in Mexico.

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Palmer crossed the border for a so-called "mommy makeover," which included a tummy tuck after researching a physician in Tijuana. But she said immediately after waking up from anesthesia, she knew something was wrong with her hands.

"I'm waking up in agonizing pain," Palmer recalled. "And it wasn't from the surgery I just had on my body -- it was on my hands. And I just remember one of the first things I said was my hands hurt. My fingers were cold, numb, and I started to worry about the circulation.

The next day, her doctor explaining that heated saline bags placed on her hands during surgery to keep her warm had severely burned her.

"When I got home, they told me the news, saying that you're likely going to have an amputation on your dominant thumb," Palmer said.

According to the CDC, each year millions of Americans participate in so called medical tourism in places like Mexico, Canada, Central and South America, and the Caribbean with dental care, surgery, cosmetic surgery and fertility treatments, organ and tissue transplantation and cancer treatments among the most common.

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The Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reporting cosmetic surgery can be obtained for up to 50% less in developing countries, with a tummy tuck running $8,000 on average in the United States. In Mexico, the same procedure can cost just $4,500 as of 2017.

But experts warn, depending on the provider, traveling abroad for medical procedures can come with a host of serious risks.

"Here in the United States, individuals are credentialed to perform certain types of procedures that's usually based on their training. It's based on their board certification and it's based on whether their facility is deemed safe for general anesthesia. That may not be the case abroad," said Dr. Oren Tepper, director of aesthetic surgery at Montefiore Albert Einstein College of Medicine.