Here, Nicole Reed, 30, tells the story in her own words.
S￼crolling through Instagram on my phone, my heart sank a little further.
Pictures of girls in bikinis with sculpted bodies, plump lips and perfect skin filled the screen.
I’d love to look like that, I thought to myself.
Working as a stewardess on superyachts around the Mediterranean coast, I was surrounded by gorgeous, flawless people.
Basically living in a swimming costume every day, I couldn’t help but feel inadequate.
After losing weight and yo-yo dieting for a few years, my breasts were droopy.
‘I had cheap plastic surgery overseas,’ a friend told me one day.
By shopping around, she’d saved thousands of dollars.
After getting lip fillers, I began to obsess over their size. And, comparing myself to the girls online, I decided that next I wanted breast implants.
I found a clinic in Turkey that’d perform it for $5300 – thousands of dollars cheaper than in Australia or New Zealand.
A few months later, I landed in Istanbul, buzzing with excitement for my new body.
After the procedure, I loved my new implants but now I thought my breasts needed a lift.
Once I started, I just couldn’t stop. I wanted a face graft, liposuction and a Brazilian butt lift too.
Flying back to Istanbul, I met with the surgeon again.
‘If you get it all done at once, you can save money and it’s just one operation,’ he explained. ‘Okay, let’s do it,’ I agreed. I hadn’t planned on having it all done in one go, but now I was ticking off surgeries like items on a grocery list.
Soon after, I was on the operating table for a boob lift, butt lift and facial rejuvenation.
Waking up after the seven-hour op, I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. My whole body ached and I started vomiting blood.
‘I feel so sick,’ I told the nurse, as I shook uncontrollably.
Because I’d had both my breast and posterior done, I couldn’t lie on my back or my front.
Sleeping was agony, as I balanced awkwardly on my side.
I cried my eyes out and begged the nurses to help.
‘I can’t even sleep,’ I pleaded. ‘What can I do?’
But despite being in excruciating pain, I was discharged after only two days.
Staggering along the street, I felt like a 90-year-old woman.
Once I’d checked into a hotel I curled up carefully on the bed carefully. Every part of my body throbbed with unbearable pain.
After a week in bed, I dragged myself to the airport. I had a flight to Thailand booked, thinking I could recuperate in the sun.
The doctors had signed me off as ‘fit to fly’, so I hobbled onto the plane, still in agony.
Lying across three seats, I sobbed as the plane shook and rattled in the sky.
When I landed in paradise, I didn’t have a skerrick of energy to enjoy it. I had to lie awkwardly on pillows at the beach bar as I nursed my broken body.
What have I done to myself? I thought, feeling like a car crash victim.
A few days later, I noticed the wound on my breast had opened. Lifting up the gauze, I saw it was infected and filled with pus. I went straight to the pharmacist. ‘Please, help me,’ I begged.
After having the stitches removed from the gaping wound, I was prescribed another dose of antibiotics.
Feeling I hadn’t received the proper aftercare from the clinic in Turkey, I tried to contact the surgeon. But the number no longer connected. I was scared, sick and alone and just wanted to go home.
It took over 36 hours of tortuous flights and delays in the airports before I landed back in New Zealand. When my brother picked me up at the airport, I knew I needed help.
‘I need to go straight to the hospital,’ I said.
The nurse who looked at my wounds was horrified. ‘What on earth happened?’ she asked.
My breasts looked slashed and deformed. It was like I’d been in an accident, not undergone plastic surgery.
A local breast surgeon recommended I have corrective surgery in the future. In the meantime, all I could do was wait for them to heal.
He explained bacteria had entered the wound and caused the horrible infection. Without proper medical aftercare, it hadn’t healed properly.
‘You’re lucky you didn’t lose the implants,’ he said.
Now, four months on, I am still bearing the injuries of the botched procedure.
I need to change the wound dressings often, bawling my eyes out as I look at my mutilated skin. I can’t even lift my handbag.
I wish I’d known the dangers of medical tourism before going under the knife.
The worst thing is, I did this to myself. I regret it with my entire heart and soul.
Now, I just want to warn people it’s not worth it and not to be sucked in by the photos on Instagram. Share my story with your daughters – learn from my mistake. I realise now that you get what you pay for. And I paid dearly.
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