The family of a Dallas woman is facing a tragic decision after she traveled to Mexico for plastic surgery.
In October 2018, Laura Avila and her fiancé, Enrique Cruz, took a trip to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Why? Avila wanted several plastic surgery operations, and the cost was a third of the price in Mexico. A nose job and a breast implant correction were among the scheduled surgeries.
Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan.
Now, Avila is facing a life that’s completely different from the one she expected … And her family is being forced to make a horrible choice.
Cruz said that soon after they arrived at the Rino Center, a plastic surgery center in Juárez, Avila received anesthesia to prepare her for surgery. But he quickly sensed that something was wrong. He said the center’s employees were reluctant to let him see her.
“I was kind of getting upset and worried because they would not let me see her or anything,” Cruz said. “The only thing that they told me was that they had to take her to the hospital because that the anesthesia wasn’t wearing off and they did not know why.”
He was kept from his fiancée for eight hours.
First, medical personnel told Cruz that Avila’s blood pressure had dropped, making it impossible to do the operation. Finally, when a doctor from a nearby hospital showed up, Cruz got to the bottom of the situation.
The doctor wanted Avila to be rushed to the hospital. He said she had gone into cardiac arrest for four minutes. Medical personnel put her into a medically induced coma, hoping to save her life.
“They injected anesthesia in her spine at the clinic, and instead of flowing down her body, it went into her brain, which caused severe swelling,” said Avila’s sister, Angie.
Angie Avila said she was told that the staff at the Rino Center injected the anesthesia incorrectly. A staff member put it in the wrong spot on Avila’s spine, causing kidney damage and massive brain damage and swelling.
“I just said to myself, ‘This isn’t happening. This can’t happen,'” Angie said. “Because of the brain damage she suffered, she’ll never be our Laura again.”
Avila’s family was barely able to get her out of Mexico.
She spent a week in the hospital in Juárez. The hospital also refused to let her transfer back to the United States before her family paid her bill in full.
Finally, her family managed to transport her via ambulance to El Paso. But they couldn’t bring her medical records — detailing her history and her vital medical needs — with them.
Now, Avila is back in the United States, but the fight still isn’t over.
“They told us she would never be able to walk or eat for herself again or speak,” Angie said. “As long as my heart is beating, I will make sure they pay for what they did and this can’t happen to anybody else.”
Three Dallas hospitals refused to admit Avila because she has no health insurance.
Avila is on life support in El Paso, and her family is running out of time. Soon, they’ll be required to decide whether to take her off life support. But they’re still fighting with a shred of hope. They say that she has begun to open her eyes and move her hands on her own. Her family hopes to transfer her to Dallas as soon as possible, where they hope her quality of care will improve.
They also want to prosecute the Rino Center for the medical errors that almost killed her.
Angie emphasized that her sister and Cruz were not irresponsible in choosing the clinic for her procedure.
In fact, they researched it thoroughly, communicated with doctors, and were reasonably confident that Avila would receive quality care there. Cruz also said the clinic has positive online reviews from past clients.
But Avila was a little nervous about the care that she would receive at the Rino Center. Text messages between her and her surgeon from earlier this year show that she was uneasy about the medication they would be administering to her. She continued to ask for clarification. Her doctor, Judith Hernandez, told her she would receive a “mix of sedation and blocking.”
Officials have raided the Rino Center, but further details have not been released.
The Avilas are also highly familiar with Mexico. They have relatives who live there and often went there for visits while they were growing up. Avila felt like she was in a safe and familiar place for her procedure. It was that familiarity that made the situation all the more shocking for her family.
“It sounds crazy to say, ‘Oh they went to another country,’ but to us, you know, it’s home,” Angie said. “It’s familiar.”
More and more Americans are pursuing medical treatments and procedures outside the United States.
In Mexico, the cost of procedures is routinely up to 65 percent cheaper than in the U.S. This makes it an attractive alternative for many people, especially those choosing elective or cosmetic procedures.
The Avila family has not yet filed charges against the Rino Center. Right now, they are focused on Laura Avila’s needs. What they’ll do in the future, they haven’t yet said.
UPDATE: Sadly, the woman has passed away. Read more here.
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