Horror wounds | 

Co Down mum left with rotting flesh and days from death after Turkey cosmetic surgery trip

Michelle Heath says people who travel to Turkey for cosmetic surgery are playing Russian roulette with their lives

Michelle this week

Roisin gorman

Michelle Heath has warned people who travel to Turkey for cosmetic surgery are playing Russian roulette with their lives.

The 40-year-old feared she'd lose her leg and almost lost her life after an op went wrong last year in Istanbul.

And she's hit out a list of accredited surgeons in Turkey shared on the Foreign Office website.

Michelle, who's part of a Facebook group for victims of botched surgery which has more than 8,000 members, says the government site gives people the wrong impression.

"I could see 12 surgeons on that list straight away who I knew from the Facebook group had botched operations," she says.

"There are pages and pages of names and people will look at that and think all the surgeons on there are safe, but you have no idea what you're getting."

The Foreign Office website states that 17 British nationals have died in Turkey since January 2019 following medical tourism visits, before referring the public to a list of accredited Turkish facilities.

"It's still Russian roulette. When I went to hospital two days after coming back from Turkey, I was two days away from a coma. If I hadn't gone when I did, I would have lost my leg," says Michelle.

"I'm now scarred for life."

Michelle’s ruptured back after the operation

Belfast Trust surgeon Graeme Macaulay revealed last week that patients from Northern Ireland have been airlifted to London for life-saving treatment after bariatric weight loss surgery in Turkey.

He warned of patients who were left unable to eat solid food, who had developed fatal conditions like sepsis or had to undergo multiple complex surgeries to fix the damage done to them.

Michelle travelled to the International Clinic at the BHT Clinic in Istanbul last August to have excess skin removed from her back and thighs. Sunday World contacted the clinic for a comment about her claim of poor treatment, but it did not respond.

The Dundonald woman, who owns the Tanning Emporium in Belfast, had lost several stone and was left with folds of skin which she wanted to have removed.

"A friend of mine had it done here, and it was £15,000. That was not within the realms of what I could afford. I looked at a number of clinics in Turkey and this was the only one where I didn't have to haggle about the price of £5,000. It doesn't seem very professional to me to haggle about the price of surgery."

Michelle Health when she returned

The mum of one was adamant that she only wanted the excess skin removed, and that she did not want liposuction.

When she came round from her surgery, she claims she discovered she'd had a Brazilian bum lift, the transfer of fat to the buttocks, which she hadn't asked for. Despite booking a two-day stay in hospital she was discharged the next day and spent a week in a hotel room in agony.

Back at home she went to her parents' house and asked a nurse friend to come and check her wounds.

"She came into the house and said all she could smell was rotting flesh. My wounds on my leg were two centimetres apart and they were rotting. She wanted me to go to hospital, but I asked to wait until the next day. By then the wounds were further apart, and I ended up going to hospital with blues and twos.

"My legs were full of blood clots and they had to debride my wounds to clear out all the dead tissue."

The scar she’s now been left with following her cosmetic surgery

Michelle had worse in store when the wound on her back ruptured a week later.

Too much skin had been removed during the surgery and instead of following the contour of her body it went straight down.

"It would never have healed," she says.

"It was tacked closed with a couple of stitches, and when I fell in the shower it ruptured. I had to have a skin graft from my thigh.

"Even now when I lean forward or bend down it feels like it's going to burst.

"I will be scarred for the rest of my life."

Since the surgery in Turkey she can no longer enjoy gym sessions which had become a huge part of her daily routine.

Michelle also blamed herself for making the decision to go there in the first place and has spent her recovery time trying to persuade other people not to make the same mistake.

"People ask me what clinic I went to and say, 'I won't go there then.'

"It makes me so angry when I read about people from here having to be airlifted to London after coming back from surgery in Turkey.

"That's a group of people who all went together and all got butchered together."

Mr Macaulay, a consultant upper gastrointestinal surgeon, warns that people travelling abroad for surgery are taking a huge chance.

"I think the message is you have no idea what you're going to get.

"This is complex, major surgery and the people in the UK who provide it have to undergo specialist training and fellowship training.

"You don't necessarily have those same guarantees when you go abroad," he says.


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