A British 33-year-old who says she experienced complications after botched cosmetic surgery in Turkey has called on the UK to stop allowing the country’s clinics to advertise their services, saying: “I thought I was going to die.”
Sara Platt, a carer and mother of four, is suing a clinic in Antalya, Turkey in February after paying £15,000 for an operation that led to her losing six and half pints of blood and needing eight transfusions.
Ms Platt, from Llanharan in Wales, told i she went to the clinic for a tummy tuck and breast lift after she was fitted with a gastric sleeve and shed 12 stone. But she said the surgery left her in a “complete and utter mess”.
The UK Government has announced plans to hold talks with Turkish officials after the deaths of several people who travelled to the country for cosmetic surgery, including a woman who had a “Brazilian butt lift”.
Ms Platt says the UK needs to raise the issue that clinics from Turkey can advertise in the UK, and believes the Turkish government should take responsibility if things go wrong. She claims there is a “dangerous” lack of regulation.
Ms Platt said she only expected to have the breast and stomach surgery at her first appointment, but the clinic operated on her arms and sides too. “I literally looked like a jigsaw,” Ms Platt said, recalling “excruciating” pain upon waking up from the surgery.
“As soon as I woke up, I knew something was wrong because I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “I noticed my right boob was purple and in the middle of my chest there was a massive lump.”
She claimed that upon taking her first shower nine days after her surgery, she noticed “brown liquid” seeping from her tummy, which felt like it was “exploding”.
She was taken back to the clinic and told she needed immediate surgery.
“I was screaming the place down,” she said. “I was in absolute bits, I’ve got complex PTSD from it, I suffer with extreme panic attacks and nightmares.”
What should have been a 12-day stay in Turkey stretched into 28 days. Ms Platt returned to the UK with a fit to fly certificate signed by the Turkish doctors after she asked to return home. Despite taking a sedative before boarding, she was still in “complete agony” during the flight, she said.
“But all I kept thinking was I’m going to die and I won’t see my children again so I’d rather be on UK soil.”
The NHS “had to save my life”, she said, describing how she stayed in hospital for eight weeks and had nine surgeries, including breast removal and skin grafts, with more operations needed.
UK doctors also tried to get rid of the necrosis and a multidrug-resistant organism (MDRO) that Ms Platt allegedly picked up during the corrective surgery in Turkey, when she claimed the doctor dropped a tool on the floor and reused it without cleaning it properly.
Ms Platt claims the doctor said he would put her to sleep during the operation but she remained awake.
“I saw everything and felt everything… the smell of my burning skin will forever stay with me,” she said.
“I was sick, shaking, passing out.”
The MDRO she contracted led to her spending six of her eight weeks in hospital in isolation, unable to see her children.
That “really really affected my mental health, I forgot how to be a mum”, she said.
Ahmed Ahmed, a consultant bariatric (weight loss) surgeon and secretary for the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society, told i: “We strongly advise patients who are considering undergoing bariatric or other types of surgery abroad to research their options carefully.
“I have seen increasing numbers of patients who had bariatric surgery abroad being left with serious complications requiring further surgery in the UK.
“Sometimes this was due to a lack of post-operative follow up. Ultimately, we need an urgent increase in commissioning these life-saving metabolic operations so that the millions of people who would benefit are able to access these treatments here in the UK.”
A trial into allegations of negligence by the clinic that treated Ms Platt will be held in Turkey in January.
The UK health minister, Maria Caulfield, has said officials from the Department of Health and Social Care would be “visiting Turkey shortly to meet with their counterparts” after a report on prevention of future deaths written by a Norfolk coroner following the death of Melissa Kerr, who died during buttock surgery at an Istanbul clinic.
Ms Caulfied said the Government was aware checks made by some countries offering healthcare tourism “may not match UK regulatory standards” and that “such transparency and standardisation are important to reduce potential risks to patients”.
i has asked the Department for Health and the Turkish government for comment.