A US woman is detailing her harrowing experience with Mexican medical tourism to warn others of the dangers after four Americans were kidnapped while allegedly en route to a cosmetic procedure in the country.
Justine Rodriguez told Fox News Digital this week that she felt “desperate” when she decided to undergo bariatric surgery in Tijuana in 2016.
The Idaho resident, 37, said her insurance would not cover the weight loss procedure, so she opted to travel south of the border, where it cost $5,000.
The experience, however, quickly devolved into a crisis when Rodriguez experienced serious complications.
“My lungs collapsed. My kidneys and my liver were going. The infection went to my brain,” she told the outlet.
A photograph of Rodriguez from shortly after the surgery shows Rodriguez unconscious in a hospital bed with electrodes pinned to her head and oxygen under her nostrils.
Looking back, Rodriguez said the decision to travel outside of the US for a major operation was “probably the worst choice I ever made in my life.”
The dangers of medical tourism are increasingly under a microscope in recent weeks after two Americans were killed following a brutal, broad-daylight kidnapping just over the Texas border in Matamoros earlier this month.
In the days after the abduction, relatives of the childhood friends said the foursome traveled to Mexico so that survivor Latavia “Tay” McGee could undergo a tummy tuck procedure.
Josef Woodman, CEO of the medical tourism guidebook Patients Beyond Borders, says both she and Rodriguez are among the droves of Americans drawn to other countries to receive cheaper treatments.
“Pre-pandemic, some 1.2 million American citizens traveled to Mexico for elective medical treatment,” Woodman told NPR last week.
Patients, he continued, mostly travel for cosmetic procedures and dental work, because they can “save 50-70% over what they would pay in the United States for an elective treatment.”
But while prospective patients should vet their medical teams, Woodman also told Fox that insisted that border crossings have never been an issue.
“We got used to patients being pretty much 100% safe when they crossed the border, even into dangerous territories,” he said.
Rodriguez, however, argued that the risks outweigh the potential benefits.
“The money is not worth it,” she said. “It’s not worth your life.”
Rodriguez’s warnings echo that of Shannyn Palmer, a 36-year-old mom of three whose botched “mommy makeover” in Tijuana resulted in two of her fingers being amputation.
“If you’re going to do a cosmetic procedure, stay in the US because going through the courts will be a lot easier and if anything does go wrong, you’ll have access to your surgeon here,” she told The Post.
“I’m permanently disfigured for the rest of my life.”