Utah mother barely survives botched weight-loss surgery in Mexico

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – The CDC has issued a strong warning for people who travel to Mexico for weight loss procedures and develop antibiotic-resistant infections.

As we’ve reported several Utahns have become ill after getting these risky surgeries.

It may seem like a cheap and easy way to go, but it can come with the costliest price. A 33-year-old mother of two from Magna needed to get her weight down because of a host of medical problems. But that decision nearly cost her her life. 

“I was so sick even the doctors thought I wouldn’t make it.”

Utah mother barely survives botched weight-loss surgery in Mexico

Justine Rodriguez went to Mexico to get a gastric sleeve where doctors cut 80 percent of her stomach. 
What she thought was a life-saving measure for her diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, weighing at 387 lbs, turned in to a life-long nightmare.

Her family had to find out from her doctor she might not make it. 

“Long after the patient has gone home from Tijuana they might wind up sick in an emergency room diagnosed with flu or pneumonia and really they have an abscess from food spilling from their stomach,” said Dr. Anna Ibele, a bariatric surgeon at the University of Utah. 

That’s exactly what happened to Justine. 

Ibele says Justine is not alone.

“Every year we have more and more patients coming to us.”

“My left lung collapsed. They put two chest tubes. If anyone has had that, dear Lord Jesus,” said Justine. 

Justine was on a feeding tube for two years and developed epilepsy.
  
Weight loss surgery can cost $10-20,000. It’s a third of that in Mexico. Insurance companies view bariatric surgeries as cosmetic instead of what doctors believe is a medical issue.

“Obesity is a bad medical problem. It can put you at risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes and early death,” said Ibele. 

Ibele says patients get desperate. The initial relatively cheap surgery in Mexico can end up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills to correct the problem.

Justine says she’s racked up nearly a million dollars in medical bills and a lifetime of pain. She takes 20 different medications and some, she has to take four times a day.

Ibele says to check with your hospital. If insurance does not cover bariatric surgery, some places offer discounts. At the U she says “self packages” allows the patient to pay out of pocket at a discounted price and that operation is insured.  

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