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Bariatric surgery in Mexico turns deadly for Phoenix woman

bariatric surgery
Posted at 10:02 PM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-15 15:52:06-04

Dulce Herrera had two dreams in life, helping her parents become U.S. citizens and losing weight. Her parents say Herrera did some research on social media and found a Facebook group of people, who like her, were looking into getting weight loss surgery done in Tijuana, Mexico.

“If she could hear me now, I would tell her don’t do it,” expressed Maria Rodriguez, Herrera’s mother.

After online recommendations, Herrera made the trip across the border for gastric bypass surgery.

Her parents say Herrera died two weeks later in a Scottsdale hospital.

“Doctors told us she had a severe infection in her intestines from the surgery in Mexico,” said Jose Herrera.

Weight loss surgery is one of the top five medical treatments Americans are going to have done in other countries like Mexico.

Related: Medical Tourists: Incoming and Outgoing

And it has to do with cost, bariatric surgery comes with a $20,000 price tag if a person doesn’t have medical insurance or it’s not covered.

Related: Paying for Weight Loss Surgery

Herrera’s family is now warning others about this medical treatment in other countries and how the consequences could be deadly.

“Do your research before getting a major surgery in other countries, think about it twice because you only live once,” said Herrera.

Bariatric surgeries are considered major operations, Doctor David Pearson from Mayo Clinic explains how the procedure works:

“We perform the surgery through several small incisions on the abdomen and by doing this, we're able to basically create what becomes a very small stomach for the patient.”

photo 1 gastric bypass.png

“We call it a gastric pouch; it ends up being about 30 to 50 milliliters of volume.”

Photo 2 gastric bypass.png

“We create basically a golf ball sized stomach pouch, and in order for food to go downstream from this new small stomach we bring a piece of intestine up and connected to that pouch that intestine is further reconnected downstream with all of the digestive juices that will mix with the food and will allow people to have excellent nutrition and still achieve excellent weight loss.”

Photo 3 gastric bypass.png

But Dr. Pearson says, not everyone is a candidate. This surgery is an aggressive step to take for people who have struggled with chronic obesity their entire life and it’s only one part of the treatment.

Like any major operation there are significant risks, but rarely deadly.

“Fortunately, modern bariatric surgery is very safe, the risk of having major complications is actually very very low when done in an accredited center,” stated Dr. Pearson.

Herrera’s parents don’t know if their daughter went to a certified bariatric surgeon.

“All we can do is share our story, maybe we can save someone else’s daughter,” expressed Rodriguez.

Dr. Pearson says it’s important to do extensive research, he recommends The American College of Surgeons (ACS) to verify the certifications of Bariatric Surgery Centers in the U.S.

To verify doctor's certifications in Mexico, Comité Normativo Nacional de Consejos de Especialidades Médicas is also available.