Cheap Botox left Chanelle O’Hare injured. Photo: Robert Shakespeare
When Chanelle O’Hare went searching online for a good deal on cosmetic procedures, she never imagined she would endure more than two years of scarring and trauma.
The 36-year-old showed up to a beauty salon at Burwood Plaza in 2012 after seeing a special deal for Botox and dermal fillers on Living Social, a popular budget website that features deals and gift ideas for things to do in Sydney.
She thought everything was fine until the nurse conducting the procedure told her she would have to see a doctor for antibiotics and antihistamine to prevent infection.
“That’s when I realised things weren’t right,” Ms O’Hare said. “She didn’t tell me what she was putting in my face and she didn’t show me any of the packages. She only told me at the end that she’d given me a stronger filler so that it would last longer. I thought, ‘what did she put in my face?'”
She woke up the next morning to find her lips were bruised, severely infected and swollen to three times their normal size, making her face unrecognisable. She had to see a doctor to reverse the filler by lancing her lips.
“I could not speak or go to work. I could not leave the house,” she said. “I went to therapy to help come to terms with the lasting impacts the procedure had on my physical and emotional wellbeing. It was traumatic looking in the mirror and not seeing my own face.”
She later discovered the nurse was being investigated by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission after it received complaints from other patients with similar results.
The commission heard that the nurse, who was working under the names Jenny Tran, Marie William and Thi Cuc Tran at operators in Burwood and Merrylands, had injected and supplied prescription-only medication without authorisation.
Botox and dermal fillers are classified as prescription medicines under the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act. This means they must be administered by or under the supervision of medical practitioners.
Ms Tran was permanently prohibited from providing injectable cosmetic treatments by the commission in 2014.
But Ms O’Hare said there had been no justice after what happened to her.
“She wasn’t insured so none of the patients could recover compensation from her,” she said.
The Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery has warned against giving cosmetic surgery as a Christmas gift.
“Christmas is a time for giving but cosmetic surgery should not be under the yuletide tree,” college president Dr Ron Bezic said.
Dr Bezic said that with Christmas and beach season upon us “it is normal that people are more conscious of creases, sags and bulges and some may be looking for a quick fix or shortcut to what they perceive as an ‘ideal’ body. It is important to do your homework before going ahead.”
After hearing of many instances of botched procedures, the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons has said it is concerned people are jumping into procedures without taking the time to think about the consequences. This has become particularly common with cheap deals and coupons for cosmetic procedures being offered online.
The society has launched a ‘think over before you makeover” campaign to warn consumers about the risks of cosmetic surgery, some of which include allergic reactions, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, swelling or drooping of the face, paralysis and even death.
President of the society and Associate Professor Hugh Bartholomeusz said people undertake cosmetic surgery without properly investigating the qualification of the person undertaking the procedure or the facility in which it’s being conducted.
This, he said, is a “recipe for disaster”.
Dr Mariusz Gajewski, from Star Cosmetic Medicine in Pyrmont, believes people are so casual about treatments because they have “developed the perception that it is risk-free”.
“People talk about having their lips enhanced the same way they would talk about a haircut,” he said. “Adverse events can happen even in skilled hands, but an experienced doctor or nurse will be able to reduce the likelihood and treat them.”
Australian Medical Association NSW President, Dr Saxon Smith, said it’s important to consider the treatment carefully.
“You should have a prior consultation with a qualified medical practitioner,” he said, “And you should make the most of the seven day cooling-off period you’re given.”
The Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery also warned of cut-price procedures.
“Consumers should be sceptical of deeply discounted anti-wrinkle injections,” President of the ACCS, Dr Ron Bezic, said.
“The manufacture and transportation of such substances cannot be guaranteed to be safe or effective. They may contain unknown or dangerous ingredients or may be counterfeit.”
The college last week warned that people who are unqualified and not registered with the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency are administering unapproved substances from their own homes.
Earlier in the year, residential premises in Rhodes and Bexley were visited by NSW Health Pharmaceutical Services officers who seized a range of imported prescription drugs including Botulinum Botox, antibiotics and local anaesthetics from Korea, China and Japan.
QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK YOUR DOCTOR
- What is your training?
- How many times have you performed this procedure before and in the past year?
- What are the risks and what is your own complication rate?
- What are the alternatives to the procedure being considered?
- Can I see results of your patients who looked similar to me before their surgery?
To check if a medical practitioner is registered with the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency visit ahpra.gov.au/Registration/Registers-of-Practitioners.aspx