Surgery Abroad: The Language Barrier

Rianna Myers shares her experience of cosmetic surgery in the Dominican Republic

Over 50,000 UK adults had cosmetic surgery in 2015, which was 13% more than the year before. This is partly because the pressure to be perfect in the collective eye of social media sites such as Instagram and Snapchat has intensified to the point that even for me as a young woman and mother living in apparently tolerant western society, I feel I have to fit in with what society sees as ‘beautiful’. And this objectification – of women especially – can be seen at work in reactions to everyone from ‘the girl next door’ to the first lady of the United States.

As a regular user of social media I can see how much women are influenced by celebrity culture, and have to admit to being one of them. So many women that I know are particularly drawn to Kim Kardashian and want to emulate not just her hairstyle and clothes, but also her infamous huge butt! Her behind has created so much excitement on social media that it has now become her greatest asset. It has also created a false idea among young girls about what’s important and what’s not – which means that for some of them nothing is more important than having a big butt. So in London one of the most popular procedures in Harley Street is to have the size of your buttocks increased.

I obviously don’t know the precise reasons why different girls have different work done, but I can tell you about my own.

Part of the problem is that beauty is no longer seen as something that is only ‘skin deep.’ It’s as if your entire worth depends on it. So if you don’t think you are beautiful, then you don’t think you are worth anything, which is why low self-esteem and self-consciousness are common in young women – often without them even knowing it. And it’s hard for mothers too, when they see celebrities looking great a week after giving birth. This is what particularly affected me. I had my first child at 18 and my second one at 22, and comparing myself to what I was seeing on TV made me feel that I had really let myself go. The pressures of being a parent and studying had left me no time to take care of myself, and I suddenly no longer felt like the young person I was or wanted to be. Instead of feeling young and attractive, I felt like my mum, and it made me think my life was over. I was so low that I stopped going out with my friends. I didn’t feel good within my own skin and as much as I loved shopping, I had a love/hate relationship with it, because every time I tried something on I thought I just looked horrible, and in the end could not look at myself anymore.

After having my two boys I kept piling on the pounds and the weight just wouldn't shift no matter how hard I tried.
After having my two boys I kept piling on the pounds and the weight just wouldn’t shift no matter how hard I tried.

But would going under the knife really make me happier, and was it really worth the risk? I had read and seen a lot about it, and was well aware of the shocking things that had happened to both regular people and celebrities. But did that deter me? Not one bit – partly because I am a risk taker, and all of the risks I had taken not only worked out fine, but had also helped make me the outgoing and determined person that I am.

But no one can be adequately prepared – mentally or physically – for either going under the knife or coping with the aftermath. Everyone’s experience of course is different, and I can only speak for my own.

There are many aspects I could tell you about, but for this account I will focus on the problems of having work done in a foreign country where English is not the first language. Being able to communicate not only with your surgeon but also with the staff and the nurses who will be caring for you is obviously crucial, given that you are going to be putting your life in their hands. Communicating with the doctor matters for the obvious reason that you don’t want to wake up with any surprises. But you also need to understand them so that you understand the risks, and what the aftercare entails.

I made my final decision to undergo cosmetic surgery after the birth of my second child in late 2012. I decided that I needed breast augmentation and liposuction of the abdomen, arms and flanks. I began saving straight away and carried out research to find the best cosmetic surgeons I could. I looked at their credentials and pictures of their work and read reviews posted by real women on the platform Realself, which is indispensable to anyone having cosmetic surgery. Realself lists board-certified surgeons from all over the world and contains thousands of accounts by women who have had surgery, and I was able to use it to ask both the surgeons and patients all those questions that I needed answers to. So one day in July I left for the Dominican Republic.

Once I arrived I was taken to the accommodation that my clinic had organised for me, together with all my transport. It was a huge, clean and air-conditioned recovery house that contained people from different surgeries. These places are a growing business in the Dominical Republic.

The there patients I met were very friendly and I found myself making great friends. The staff were also very kind, but I did notice that their English wasn’t great. The next morning I woke up at 7am and went to the clinic where I finally met my surgeon for a face to face consultation. I had so many questions I wanted to ask her, and the way she answered them and the way she kept telling me she would look after me made me feel very safe. I decided I had made the right decision, and was ready to go ahead with the procedure the next morning.

My friend came along with me and did not leave my side once. Strong support when going through something like this is very important. Before tho procedure, I went over what I wanted very carefully with the surgeon, and she drew the marks on me to show where the surgery was needed.

left-arm-small
These are the marks made on my arms by there surgeon 

When I woke up I felt like I’d been run over by a lorry, but I was told the surgery had been a complete success. But that was when I noticed that my arms hadn’t been done. I was really disappointed and wanted to ask the nurses but they did not speak good enough English so I had to wait for the surgeon. When I finally got to see her, she told me that she had never promised to do my arms, only to try and do them, and had decided not to because she was worried I would lose too much blood. But that was not what i had remembered her saying, so I was really annoyed, especially as I had paid $4000 and still had work to be done.

The experience has taught me a lot. I don’t want to blame the surgeon. I am still grateful to her and don’t think it was her fault, particularly as her decision not to operate on my arms was for my own safety. But what I now know is that however much you respect your surgeon, if you don’t speak the same language then then there may be major misunderstandings.

So if you decide you want to go abroad for cosmetic surgery, make sure you that nothing gets lost in translation.


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