HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- A year after Linda Pérez fell into a coma following breast augmentation surgery, she is living at home with her parents and is under 24-hour nursing care. She can’t walk and can speak only a few words.
Her mother, Mariela Diaz, says her daughter no longer needs a feeding tube, is slowly making progress and has experienced small victories, such as moving her feet.
“I still have hope because she is alive and she’s home,” Diaz said.
However, she says doctors don’t know if her daughter will ever fully recover. Pérez suffered brain damage in the hour after her surgery. She is thin and gaunt and needs to be carried to get around.
“I’m sick that she can’t be like she used to be,” said her mother. The family, who lives in Homestead, has to help Pérez with all the necessities of life.
Pérez’s problems began shortly after the end of her breast augmentation operation in August at the Coral Gables Cosmetic Center.
A report from her doctor, Jacob Freiman, sent to the Florida Department of Health, explained that the anesthetist, Mario Alberto Diaz, told him Pérez 's heart rate was “very low” and he had to give her atropine and chest compressions to keep her alive.
Just over an hour after the operation finished, Pérez was rushed to the emergency room at Mercy Hospital.
Pérez suffered multiple complications and remained in a coma for weeks. Her family said doctors told them Pérez had suffered brain damage. Diaz said doctors were advising the family to disconnect Pérez from the machines that kept her alive when she stirred from her coma in October.
Pérez returned home in late November but has since been readmitted to the hospital several times. At home, she requires 24-hour-a-day nursing care.
Pérez’s family says they intend to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against Coral Gables Cosmetic Center. They plan to legally become their daughter’s guardian and care for her four-year-old son.
The family's lawyer, Mark Eiglarsh, declined to comment.
Kubs Lalchandani, who is representing the medical center, said he could not comment on the case because of privacy laws, but said he has requested Pérez’s medical records from Mercy Hospital to carry out his own investigation into what happened.
In his report, Freiman said Pérez was told by a doctor that her daughter had suffered a similar incident when she gave birth to her son.
“They put a spinal anesthetic, and she needed to be intubated,” Freiman wrote in his report — information he says was kept from him to get him to perform the cosmetic surgery.
Freiman said Pérez had told him she did not take medication and had recently stopped smoking. He said she told him she had a history of seizures eight years earlier but had not taken medication since then and had no problems with anesthesia or heart or lung problems.
Freiman is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. He has no history of malpractice complaints.
However, the anesthesiologist Mario Alberto Diaz was sentenced to 30 months in prison and two years’ probation in Iowa for providing drugs illegally. The Florida Board of Medicine suspended him for six months and found that for a year he should be supervised in the performance of his work.
Currently, his license is active, but he is prohibited from prescribing drugs over the Internet, according to the website of the state Department of Health.
In addition, Diaz was one of the defendants for medical malpractice in the death of a patient 35 years after undergoing buttock augmentation at Strax Rejuvenation in Lauderhill.
Mariela Diaz said that a doctor told her not to talk to her daughter about what happened to her.
“She goes into depression and crying,” Diaz said. “She sees that she cannot walk, and when she realizes what happened to her she cries.”