Mother who lost fingers in tummy tuck warns against medical tourism days after Americans kidnapped in Mexico


March 7, 2023 | 17:42

Shannyn Palmer went to Mexico in search of a firmer body after having her third child. She returned badly burned and needed multiple amputations.

Palmer, 36, paid $12,500 last August for a “mommy makeover,” including a tummy tuck, stomach repair, a breast lift and fat transfer to her hips.

She first examined the board-certified surgeon, Dr. Mario Gonzalez, months in advance and felt confident going into the procedure at The Beauty Hospital in Tijuana.

But Palmer, of Vancouver, Wash., knew something was wrong immediately when she woke up from anesthesia to find her hands “basically burning,” she told The Post.

The sedated patient said clinic staff told her her hands were cold during the procedure, prompting a nurse to use heated saline bags to warm them.

The alleged act left Palmer with second- and third-degree burns, leading to the partial amputation of her right thumb and left middle finger, she said.

Shannyn Palmer of Vancouver, Wash., had to have parts of her fingers amputated after a tummy tuck went wrong in Mexico, she said.
Courtesy of Shannyn Palmer
Palmer instantly knew something was wrong in August when she woke up from anesthesia to feel her hands “basically on fire,” she said.
Shannyn Palmer

“I never had any instinct that it was going to go wrong,” Palmer said. “I chose a really good surgeon; he never had any bad results and had a good portfolio. This definitely didn’t work for me at all.”

Cosmetic surgery is extremely popular in Mexico, where four Americans were kidnapped over the weekend — and two were killed — while on a trip there for one of the survivors, Latavia McGee, to get a tummy tuck.

About 1.2 million total surgical and non-surgical procedures were performed in 2021, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

The total was surpassed by only three other countries: the United States (7,347,900), Brazil (2,723,640) and Japan (1,270,605), data show.

Palmer, who works for UPS, missed about five months of work before returning last week.
Shannyn Palmer

Botox, hyaluronic acid skin treatments and hair removal were the most common procedures in Mexico in 2021.

Globally, liposuction, breast augmentation and eyelid surgery led the way – with a 19.3% increase in the total number of procedures compared to 2020, according to ISAPS.

Some clinics in Mexico City advertise tummy tucks for as low as $3,500. For just $300 more, patients on also receive a weeklong hotel stay, a bilingual assistant, and pre- and post-surgery consultations.

Palmer’s disfigurement should give others pause before considering cosmetic work, whether in the United States or abroad, she said.
Courtesy of Shannyn Palmer

The practice is one of Mexico’s top medical tourism destinations, according to its website.

Health and Wellness Bazaar, a San Diego-based medical group, claims that traveling to Mexico for a tummy tuck — with fees starting at $5,500 — can save patients up to 60%.

“In the past, it was common for people from less developed countries, perhaps with poor medical services, to travel to countries with more advanced technologies and better services to have an operation or procedure that was not available in their home country,” the website says. . “However, these days, hundreds of patients from countries such as the United States, Canada or Europe have found it very convenient to travel to other countries for medical care and operations, such as tummy tucks in Mexico.”

Palmer with her 4-year-old daughter, Emily
Shannyn Palmer

Palmer said she had wanted a “mommy makeover” for years and finally decided to take action after being diagnosed last year with kidney cancer, which has since gone into remission.

Cost was a major motivating factor for going to Mexico after maxing out her insurance, she said.

“Obviously it depends on the area and the surgeon, but had I stayed in Washington it would have been about $20,000 to $25,000,” Palmer said. “Some ladies have had mommy makeovers on the order of $35,000 plus.”

The mother of three said her sons asked if she was becoming a zombie when they saw her hands.
Courtesy of Shannyn Palmer

The average cost of a tummy tuck is $6,100 in the United States, according to the latest statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

This figure does not include anesthesia, operating room fees, or other related expenses.

Palmer, a retention specialist for UPS, missed about five months from her job before fully returning to work last week.

She advised other Americans considering traveling to Mexico for plastic surgery to consider other options.

“Going under the knife can be dangerous,” Palmer said. “But if you’re going to have a cosmetic procedure, stay in the US because it will be much easier to go through the courts and if something goes wrong, you’ll have access to your surgeon here.

Palmer said she is no longer able to play the piano or sew as she once enjoyed.

“Not only am I a mother of three,” she said, “I’m also an artist and I do a lot of costume design, so I use my hands for literally everything.”

Her children were also affected by her black fingers, which were amputated in the United States after final hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Oregon to save them, she said.

“My boys thought I turned into a zombie when my fingers turned black,” she said. “So I had to explain to them, ‘No, I’m not a zombie.'”

Latavia McGee was one of the four Americans kidnapped last week in Mexico. She had reportedly gone there for a tummy tuck.
Facebook / Latvia âTayâ McGee

She added that she had to relearn how to do basic tasks like housework and simply holding her daughter.

“There’s a lot of things I couldn’t do at first,” Palmer said, adding that she’s improving daily. “Now they think I’m like a superhero mom looking at the prosthetics I’m trying on.”

But Palmer’s children still ask if her fingers will ever return — a hard reality to face, she said.

“No, it doesn’t work like that,” she recalled telling them. “I’m permanently disfigured for the rest of my life.”

Two of McGee’s traveling companions were killed during the kidnapping.

The rest of the procedure went as planned, Palmer said, highlighting the risk of going under the knife for any reason.

“If it hadn’t happened to my hands, I would be very happy,” she said. “But this is a life-changing experience. I still haven’t gotten over how this will affect me for the rest of my life.”

Palmer now plans to sue Dr. Gonzalez, who primarily practices from Guadalajara, as well as his clinic and medical team. Attempts to reach the surgeon at his clinic on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

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