DALLAS (CBSDFW/CBS NEWS) – A Dallas real estate agent who traveled to a clinic in Mexico in October for several plastic surgery procedures and returned to the U.S. on life support with brain damage has died, according to the family’s attorney.
“She was a beautiful woman, powerful and full of life. She had the best of life in front of her until this tragic, unfortunate and senseless death. So that her death is not in vain, people should think of Laura before they look for cross border discount surgery,” the attorney said.
Laura Avila’s sister said in a Facebook post the realtor was moved into hospice care late last week and that her fate was “in the hands of God.”
“Based on the recommendation of Laura’s physicians, and after hours of agony and consideration, our family moved Laura to a more comfortable facility late last night. Laura is peacefully resting and her fate is in the hands of God. Visitation is limited to immediate family and very close friends. We appreciate your understanding and respect towards our wishes. Thank you for keeping Laura in your prayers and for all of your continued love & support,” said Angie Avila.
The page included a link to a GoFundMe campaign Angie set up in Laura’s behalf. As of Saturday, the page said more than half of the $150,000 had been raised.
Enrique Cruz, Avila’s fiance, said he was at the Rino Center in Ciudad Juarez when his healthy fiancee went in for a nose job and breast implant replacement. Some eight hours later, doctors said there was a problem.
“The only thing that they told me was that they had to take her to the hospital because that, the anesthesia wasn’t wearing off and they did not know why,” Cruz told CBS News’ Anna Werner last week.
Angie said doctors at the Mexican hospital where her sister was transferred told them the Rino Center put the anesthesia in the wrong place in Laura’s spine and that her brain swelled, her kidneys failed and she went into cardiac arrest.
“I just said to myself, ‘This isn’t happening. This can’t happen,”‘ Angie said. “Because of the brain damage she suffered, she’ll never be our Laura again.”
The family said in a separate statement Sunday that, “Laura was mistreated by doctors in Mexico who were more interested in luring American consumers to their country for the income generated from the promise of discounted medical services than in providing proper patient care.” That statement was released by Avila family attorney Larry Friedman.
Cruz said he researched the clinic and found positive reviews online. Angie said they have family in Mexico and, while growing up, often crossed the border to visit from El Paso.
“It sounds crazy to say, ‘Oh they went to another country,’ but to us, you know, it’s home. It’s familiar,” Angie said.
A 2017 study estimated nearly 1.5 million Americans were expected to travel outside the U.S. for medical care. In Mexico, procedures can cost anywhere between 40 and 65 percent less than in the U.S. Laura’s family estimates her procedures were somewhere around $8,500.
“People are seeking alternatives,” said Josef Woodman, CEO of Patients Beyond Borders. “The oversight in countries like Mexico isn’t up to the same standards as it is on the United States.”
“Laura would not want her tragic experience to pass in vain,” the Avila family statement said. “Americans seeking bargain medical services outside the U.S. should carefully examine the services offered, the credentials and experience of the medical providers, the risks involved, the chances of success and weigh those factors against the amount of money saved by crossing the boarders treatment. If her experience saves one life, then all that she has been through will have been worthwhile.”
Avila’s family said they want the Rino Center to be held responsible.
“As long as my heart is beating, I will make sure they pay for what they did and this can’t happen to anybody else,” Angie said.