A reporter learns a lesson (or four) the hard way
Imagine my euphoria.
A local doctor had invited me, a medical reporter newly specializing in plastic surgery, to scrub in for his signature non-surgical face lift – a procedure that uses only injectables to turn back the hands of time on the face.
His office was just blocks away from mine, so I jumped at the opportunity to see firsthand one of the procedures that I may be asked to write about in the near future.
I did not do much research on the physician since I was only going for background information. Arguably, I should have.
Who was this doctor? What was his background? And why did he want me – and several other journalists –in his operating room anyway?
To my surprise, this “doctor” was a dentist, not a plastic surgeon or a physician who has dedicated his practice to aesthetic pursuits, but a card-carrying, root-canalling, cavity-filling dentist who was dabbling in plastic surgery.
And why did he want me there? Publicity, of course. If a media representative such as myself was impressed and wrote about his new signature procedure, then surely customers – paying customers – would follow.
Suffice it to say, I wasn’t impressed. The surgery-free surgery did not go as planned. The “patient”, who also happened to be the mother of the dentist’s publicist, had a bad reaction to one of the injections, fainted while in the operating chair, and began to seize. The dentist panicked and snapped at his dental assistant, ordering her to get some orange juice STAT. He attempted to smile for the bevy of reporters watching the Grey’s Anatomy-like drama unfold, and said that this was likely some type of low blood sugar reaction.
I suspected (and later confirmed) this was not the case, but rather it was a vagal reaction, where the patient’s blood pressure bottomed out in response to the pain from the injections. Thinking quickly, I bee-lined toward the door. Good call. Not seconds after the fresh-from-a-faint patient took a swig of orange juice, did she begin to projectile vomit, which is common when juice is administered in response to a vagal event.
The publicist who had invited me was in tears, rocking back and forth on the floor of the makeshift O.R., as I would be if I witnessed my own mother having such a reaction. It was a total disaster and the dentist was clearly in well over his head. The patient did recover, and from what I hear, went through with the procedure at a later date with a well-qualified cosmetic physician.
As for me, I did learn a lesson or two that day – although not the ones I had set out to learn.
Lesson No. 1
Seemingly anyone can hang a shingle and offer plastic surgery procedures, but not everyone should
Only board certified physicians whose practices are devoted to aesthetics should perform cosmetic treatments. These doctors are skilled at performing the procedure as well as managing any problems that can arise. Unskilled practitioners or amateur injectors (or non-physician, such as dentist) may also be more likely to use unlicensed or expired products in inappropriate dosages, which can increase the inherent risks of any procedure.
Lesson No. 2
Non-surgical does not mean non-risky
Minimally invasive procedures such as this injectable-only facelift may not involve incisions or general anesthesia, but they still have their fair share of risks. In the wrong hands and the wrong settings (i.e. a dental office), these risks can be mismanaged, and there can be serious consequences. Unskilled practitioners may not take a full medical history to make sure that an individual is an appropriate candidate for a given procedure, which can greatly increase the risk of an unsatisfactory result or complication. In this case, the dentist didn’t know his patient had a history of fainting from pain. Had he taken a comprehensive history, the whole situation could have been avoided.
Lesson No 3
Be your own reporter
Do your research. Always know who is in injecting you or operating on you. Ask about their qualifications and background. Make sure this person has been properly trained and is operating in a properly equipped medical facility. Ask to see before or after pictures or talk with patients. Get the facts first.
Lesson No 4
Leave your cavities and crowns to the dentist, and your cosmetic concerns to a physician who specializes in this arena. You won’t be sorry, and if you are a reporter, you likely won’t be covered in vomit.