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Avila: in a coma after botched surgery in Juárez. Ávila: in a coma after botched surgery in Juárez.

US ‘medical tourist’ in coma after nose job went wrong in Juárez

'She suffered brain damage so much that she will never be our Laura again'

A 36-year-old woman from the United States is in a medically-induced coma in El Paso, Texas, more than two weeks after nose job surgery in Ciudad Juárez went wrong.

Laura Ávila, a real-estate agent from Dallas, Texas, went to a plastic surgery clinic in the Chihuahua border city on October 30 to have the procedure done.

The price Ávila paid for the nose job at RinoCenter was reportedly less than one-third the usual cost in the United States.

According to her fiancé Enrique Cruz, medical staff at the RinoCenter administered anesthesia to Ávila before telling him later that they couldn’t operate because her blood pressure had dropped.

Cruz responded that he wanted the clinic to move her to a hospital.

“That’s when they told us, ‘Oh, by the way, she had a cardiac arrest,’” he said.

Angie Ávila, the woman’s sister, told Dallas television station WFAA that “they injected anesthesia to her spine at the clinic and instead of it flowing down her body it went to her brain, which caused severe swelling.”

After eight hours in a room at the RinoCenter clinic, Ávila was eventually transferred to a Ciudad Juárez hospital.

She spent four days there while her family tried to arrange a transfer to a hospital across the border in El Paso.

However, Mexican hospital officials refused to sign the transfer papers until Ávila’s medical bill was paid.

“The hospital in Mexico basically held us hostage because we wouldn’t pay the full amount,” Angie Ávila said.

Laura Ávila was eventually transferred to an El Paso hospital by ambulance but without her medical records, which are critical for treatment. The family has hired lawyers in Juárez to help them obtain them.

In El Paso, doctors gave a grim diagnosis within hours of Ávila’s arrival.

“They’ve told us that she suffered severe brain damage so much so that she will never be our Laura again.”

The family was given the choice of removing Ávila from life support or to have breathing and feeding tubes connected to keep her alive.

“They told us she would never be able to walk or eat for herself again or speak,” Angie Ávila said.

However, Laura’s family and friends refuse to give up and last night held a candlelight vigil in San Jacinto Plaza in downtown El Paso.

“Now we’re waiting for a miracle,” Ávila’s aunt Ericka Montes told the newspaper El Diario de El Paso.

“I feel sad and very upset about what happened to my friend,” said María Hernández, as tears ran down her face. “She was very beautiful and didn’t need to have surgery . . .”

The vigil, at which attendees prayed for a quick recovery, was led by Ávila’s devastated fiancé.

“Laura is a marvelous woman. She loved to dance, sing, cook and travel and was very generous. She opened her heart to everyone,” Cruz said.

In recent days, friends and family have been encouraged by signs of life that they have seen.

“She opens her eyes, she’s fighting,” Angie Avila said. “She moves her legs or raises her arms.”

Cruz and Ávila’s family hope to move her to Dallas where they believe that she can get better care.

However, three major hospitals in the city have refused to admit Ávila because she doesn’t have medical insurance.

Angie Ávila has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to cover her sister’s treatment. Supporters have so far pledged just over US $75,000 of a US $150,000 goal.

Source: Dallas News (en), El Diario de El Paso (sp), WFAA (en) 

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