‘It hurts so much I can’t sit down’: The dangerous practice of butt implants that is ruining women’s lives across Venezuela
- At least 15 women have died in Venezuela from bad butt implants since 2011
- The dangerous surgeries involve having synthetic biopolymer injections
- As the silicone is not in implant form, the substance travels in the body
- At least 40,000 women in the country have undergone ‘butt jobs’
- The procedures have been banned but the women find a way around it
A dangerous trend has seen more than a dozen women in Venezuela die from botched plastic surgeries involving injecting synthetic silicone into their buttocks.
At least 40,000 women in the South American nation have undergone a procedure where they have a gel-like substance called a synthetic biopolymer shot into the butt cheeks.
As opposed to a silicone implant, the synthetic substance flows like an injection and spreads uncontrollably through tissue, leading to deformities and sometimes death.
Thus goes body worship in Venezuela, where undergoing plastic surgery is as common as going to the dentist and beauty pageants are like a religion.
Eager to resurrect her failed marriage, Mercedes dreamed of having a shapely rear end. A risky, potentially deadly, silicone injection technique beckoned. She said yes. Now she rues that day.
‘It hurts so much I cannot sit down for even five minutes,’ said the 45-year-old, her voice quivering. She is so embarrassed she won’t give her last name.
Two years ago Mercedes received 560cc of the stuff in each buttock. It was a low point in her life when she was desperate to rekindle her marriage and win back her estranged husband.
‘I did no research on what it was. I just wanted to know who did the best job,’ Mercedes says while waiting at a clinic. Her dream is to get the silicone out of her body.
The original operation cost the equivalent of $800 (£498). Days later, she started feeling an intense pain. She has learned to live with it, as she has with stinging criticism from her family.
‘I ask God and the Virgin for forgiveness so I can get out of this. This is no way to live,’ she said, her eyes clenched shut.
Astrid de la Rosa, who underwent the same procedure only to see the gel migrate to her lower back and hips, created a support foundation in 2011.
It is called the ‘No to Biopolymers Foundation’ and has recorded 15 deaths so far from complications resulting from this beauty enhancing technique.
The foundation has knowledge of 40,000 people who opted for the procedure, and the number is growing even though in November of 2012 the Venezuelan government banned the use of use of stuffing-like materials such as the synthetic biopolymers for aesthetic purposes.
The authorities have brought charges against some doctors and beauticians who continue to offer the service.
‘There are even recent cases of parents who give their daughters the biopolymer butt and breast treatment for their 15th birthday and now they regret it,’ said De la Rosa.
Omar Guerrero, a 35-year-old trainer at a gym in the western city of San Cristobal, shot the gel into his pecs to look more buff and is now an utter wreck
The polymers migrated to muscles between his ribs, tightening his thorax and limiting his breathing. He’s been flat out in bed for two years.
‘I cannot do exercise. I cannot run. I am a living dead man,’ said Guerrero.
With his artificially toned up muscles, he said, people shun him in hospitals and treat him as if he were HIV-positive.
He went to one of two doctors known to be offering a technique to try to rid people of the stuff they pumped into themselves.
One is a Caracas plastic surgeon named Daniel Slobodianik. In the waiting room of his office it is standing room only.
He says that since 2011 he must have seen about 400 patients with this problem.
The legion of walking wounded in his clinic includes: a 60-year-old woman who can barely move she is in so much pain; two cousins who had the procedure done at the same time and while not yet smarting, are scared by what they are hearing; and a woman who is trying to get pregnant and is worrying what the silicone in her body might do to a fetus.
Slobodianik withdraws the silicone in a $6,000 (£3,730) operation that is still considered experimental by the Venezuelan Society for Plastic Surgery, as there is no guarantee of complete recovery or even improvement.
Jesus Pereira, president of the society, said the only time it endorses the procedure is when the gel is actually at the point of bursting out of the body.
‘It is a special situation that can cause septicaemia and with it, death,’ he said.
A better approach is to treat the problem with steroids, which gives pretty good results, he added.
But Slobodianik said he has already operated on 50 women and three or four men.
Still, some of the gel will always remain in the body, he said. ‘It is an incurable disease.’
As for Mercedes, she got her husband back but can no longer have sex and even refuses to take her clothes off in front of him because her rear is so bruised. And she can no longer even have sex.