A woman who claims she was left looking like a "freak" after a breast job gone wrong says she got it corrected without further cost only after threatening to go to the Medical Council.
The 56-year-old Aucklander, who asked not to be identified, has spoken out about her cosmetic surgery nightmare to warn others of the risks, and to urge others to be relentless in seeking remedies when problems arise.
She shared her story after the Herald this week revealed the case of a 49-year-old woman who had a facelift that left her with sagging cheeks. Her resulting complaint led to the surgeon being criticised by the Health and Disability Commissioner.
The woman told the Herald she got the breast augmentation at an Auckland clinic 18 months ago, to take her from a 34B to a 34DD, because it had been something she wanted since she was in her 20s.
"I wanted to feel more feminine."
She said it cost her about $14,000 but one implant dramatically sagged over time. When she was later topless in a spa/sauna on the Gold Coast a stranger asked if she was all right.
"I told her what I had done, and she said, 'No, you look like a freak. You should go back."'
Association of Plastic Surgeons president Howard Klein said complications from breast augmentation surgery by qualified surgeons were rare "but there is no question complications do occur".
Cosmetic surgery carried risks just like elective surgery, he said.
After the surgery, the woman said, one breast "just started to drop down".
"Eventually, after a year, the capsule had sort of slipped out."
When she went back to her surgeon she was told it would probably take a little bit longer to "settle".
Three months later the surgeon told her he could operate again, at a cost of about $4700, she said. But she did not have the money. When she was then quoted a figure of about $1700, she again said she could not afford it.
"I said ... I've spoken to my doctor, and he's advised me to go to the Medical Council and lay a complaint against you. And the next day I got a phone call - would I go in and see [the surgeon]? And that's when he said, 'Well, I'm sorry you are unhappy and we feel we have neglected you, and, yes, I will do it absolutely for free."'
The follow-up surgery was done recently, and she said things were now "back to normal, basically".
"The point is you shouldn't have to fight for it."
The woman said that while some risks were pointed out to her beforehand, this complication was not.
Dr Klein said people should always ask lots of questions when considering cosmetic surgery and risks should be thoroughly discussed. "It's very much a buyer beware type of thing."