CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - It's become quite the fad: skip the expensive surgeries and dental procedures in the United States and get them done abroad for thousands less.
For some the surgery and recovery are seamless, but it nearly cost one Charlotte woman her life.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, had lost a hundred pounds and was looking to feel better in her own skin.
"I felt good in my clothes. I was down to a size 7 or 9, but I felt like my arms were just, I still looked like an overweight person," she told FOX 46.
She wanted to be like others she saw on Instagram and YouTube. She researched various surgeries to complete her look. There was just one problem: the cost.
"Definetly out of my price range for what I wanted to have."
What she wanted was a tummy tuck with brachioplasty, also known as an arm lift, and 360 liposuction. A doctor in the Dominican Republic was $11,000 cheaper than a doctor here in the United States. It was the ultimate all inclusive package.
"For $7,000, I got plane tickets, a place to stay, the surgeries, pain medicine, even food."
She flew to the Dominican Republic and that night had the three surgeries. Within 11 days she was back home in Charlotte. It's when she returned that she noticed something wasn't right.
"I noticed the incision had a little pimple. So, I called the doctor and he said 'hey this looks like it may be infected.' He says, 'We took your drains out, that might be the fluid trying to leave your body."
There was no question it was trying to leave her body. Every time she stood up, fluid poured out.
As the days passed, she and her doctor messaged on WhatsApp. She says he told her to keep taking antibiotics, but things kept getting worse. At one point she says her skin looked like it was melting off her abdomen. Finally, she went to the hospital.
"She was already having fevers, low blood pressure. My biggest fear is that if she waited a few hours or even a day, she may not be around to tell her story," said Dr. Theodore Nyame.
Nyame is a board certified plastic surgeon with Charlotte Plastic Surgery. He donated his services to save her life.
"What I had was MRSA, so it's very complicated. It had spread through my body. It was basically eating me from the inside out," the woman said.
"We did a number of procedures that were local procedures. I lost count how many we did," Nyame said.
Nyame cut more than $100,000 from her bill by donating his services, but she stull ended up with $35,000 in hospital bills. He says patients should never price shop for medical care. If you do choose to go abroad to get a surgery, he recommends having an exit plan.
"That person should be connected with a board certified surgeon who has agreed in advance to take care of you should you have an issue," he said.
Josef Woodman, CEO of Patients Beyond Borders, made finding quality medical care abroad his career.
"We try to keep people up to date on sites we have either visited or that we know to be excellent quality," Woodman said. "Make sure the chemistry is right. Make sure they respond quickly, make sure they request medical records and what we tell patients is you don't have to do it. Even when you get down there, if you don't like the way the clinic looks, walk away."
Nearly three years later, the woman has healed both physically and mentally. Her scars she says are reminders that there are more important things in life.
"I could have left my daughter without a mom just because I wanted to look like an Instagram model," she said.