MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – They went to Mexico for weight loss surgery. Now two Mid-Southerners are fighting for their lives.
Earlier this month, health departments across the country issued warnings, urging travelers to avoid surgery at Grand View Hospital in Tijuana, Mexico. The warning came after patients caught a potentially deadly strain of bacteria resistant to almost all antibiotics.
An East Arkansas woman was a patient at Grand View Hospital. It is where many patients caught the potentially deadly infection, according to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).
The decision to go is one Tamika Capone now regrets.
“I think I’d rather be fat at this point than to have this,” she says.
Capone has a drug-resistant bacteria called Pseudomonas raging inside her body.
“Now I’m at risk for my life because I chose to go to Tijuana,” she continues.
Capone went to Grand View Hospital for gastric sleeve surgery last October. The 40-year-old had been fighting weight and health issues since a car accident severely damaged her legs. She thought weight loss surgery was the answer.
A friend referred her to Grand View.
“Hers went perfect. I said, ‘give me the information.’” Capone says she had the surgery scheduled by the next day.
Thirty days later, she boarded a plane in Memphis, landed in San Diego, California, and crossed the border to Mexico on a medical transport bus.
At the hospital, Capone says she noticed something.
“They didn’t use gloves, and I thought maybe there is something they use that we don’t use in the U.S., maybe on their hands,” said Capone.
According to an alert issued by the ADH, Mexican health officials identified poor infection control practices at Grand View Hospital, including unsafe processes for cleaning surgical equipment.
Just days after having the surgery Capone says, “I could feel myself getting sicker and sicker.”
Capone had a drug-resistant bacterial infection. Three months after that trip to Mexico, her wound still hasn’t healed.
“I think the Tijuana experience we are seeing here recently, is nothing more than a good example of something that’s been a relatively common problem for some time. There are inherent different risks of getting medical procedures done in other countries. So-called medical tourism,” says Dr. Steve Threlkeld, Infectious Disease Specialist.
“When you go to another country, some of these facilities may be privately owned,” he continues. “There may not be the ability to tell exactly who it is that’s operating on you and doing these procedures. It may be more difficult to tell the qualifications of a given surgeon.”
“I regret going now, I really do,” says Capone.
She went to Mexico because her health insurance would not cover the $18,000 surgery. In Mexico, the procedure costs $4,000.
It was cheaper but Capone says it was a move that could end up costing her, her life.
“Ya’ know, I hate the saying you get what you pay for, but I kinda slap myself for that ya’ know,” she says.
Since returning from Mexico and developing complications, Capone has racked up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Her health insurance will not cover many of the follow-up issues because she left the country for the initial surgery.