Cosmetic surgery is more popular than ever before — but what happens when it all goes horribly wrong? Sydney mother Sophie Blair shares her plastic surgery nightmare.
Sophie Blair was just 20 years old and working as a part-time model when she visited a local beauty salon hoping to have a few freckles removed.
She'd just broken up with her partner and was looking for a treatment that would give her a confidence boost.
"I wanted a little TLC," she says, "I wanted a pick-me-up after the break-up and to come away feeling good about myself."
Instead, Sophie ended up with a hole in the side of her left cheek that has taken seven years, reconstructive surgery and a law suit to fix after her therapist stabbed her in the side of the cheek with a needle- covered roller that was supposed to leave her with "baby soft skin".
"It was described to me as 'the Rolls-Royce of facials', a luxury treatment," Sophie explains.
"The roller would gently take off the top layer of my skin, leaving new skin underneath, and encourage collagen renewal like a deep exfoliation."
Yet the therapist's hand slipped during the procedure and the roller stabbed Sophie's face.
"I screamed," Sophie recalls. "It really hurt and I was under anaesthetic! There was blood everywhere and I had a panic attack, it was so shocking."
The therapist patched up Sophie's face with gauze strips and sent her home, promising free treatments to fix the wound.
"I kept going back — how stupid! But after six weeks, when it wasn't healing, she suggested she could fill the hole with dermal filler to fix it. That's when I knew I had to go and get help."
Sophie sued and won $25,000 in compensation, but she has permanent nerve damage to the side of her face and required plastic surgery to remove the scarred tissue and heal the hole.
Shockingly, the equipment that was used on Sophie's face, known as a dermal roller, can be bought online for $49 and used by anyone without any training or regulation.
"It's been terrible," she says. "Women must be very, very careful about where they go and who they see for treatments."
Sydney surgeon Dr Charles Cope was neither shocked nor surprised by this case. He says increasing numbers of women are left with permanent damage after botched salon or DIY procedures.
"Plastic surgeons are seeing more and more cases of women coming in to fix up problems caused by procedures that have been performed by people who are not adequately trained, or by people using substandard cosmetic medicines they have purchased online," says Dr Cope from North Shore Cosmetic Surgery.
"I have seen the results of women buying dermal fillers and Botox from the internet. I've had patients inject themselves with permanent filler they've bought from overseas websites and it has to be cut out of their face.
"People don't realise this is not the same as buying a lipstick or a pair of shoes. If something goes wrong, you can't take it back. You can have all of these treatments delivered to your door, but do you know what you are buying? I don't understand why anyone would take the risk."
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