NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – After three people were charged with an illegal liposuction procedure in a North Myrtle Beach apartment, the doctor who treated the victim has spoken up to warn others about the threat of uncertified plastic surgeons.
Dr. Ralph Cozart said he was the on-call plastic surgeon at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center in Myrtle Beach Friday when he was called in to respond to a 19-year-old woman who came to the hospital dizzy, vomiting and bleeding.
"Had she been 40 or 50 years old, I'm afraid she might not have survived," Cozart said.
Cozart explained the 19-year-old woman was in hemorrhagic shock. He said the cuts to her stomach, arms and legs were not sutured closed.
"The incisions were not closed. They were open and draining," Cozart said, "but the problem was she wasn't given the proper fluids to replace the fluids that were suctioned out. The equipment was not sterile. They did not have sterilization equipment at all. They were using bleach to decontaminate the instruments."
Based on his observations and enough information from the woman, Cozart called North Myrtle Beach Police.
The victim told an officer she arranged the liposuction after seeing a particular advertisement online. She said two people picked her up from Myrtle Beach Mall on Thursday and took her to the Ashley Park Apartments in North Myrtle Beach to get the liposuction. The woman said she paid $1,500 up front, and she was expected to $1,500 after the procedure. The victim stated she was given several pills, causing her to become unconscious.
She said when she woke up the two people were taking her home. According to the woman's statement in a police incident report the woman's mother took her to the hospital Friday evening after she became sick and continued to bleed.
Saturday a search warrant was issued and served at an apartment at 1100 David St. in North Myrtle Beach where three suspects were arrested and charged.
Police arrested Adriana Chica Neibles, 41, of Bogota, Colombia, who they believe was doing procedures for which she was not qualified. Chica Neibles was the person featured in the online advertisement.
North Myrtle Beach Police also arrested Nubia Trujillo Rojas, 53, of Nelva, Colombia, and Miguel Trujillo-Orozco, 31, of North Myrtle Beach.
The victim's health did not allow her to write a statement for law enforcement at the time they visited her in the hospital. She did, however, note that Trujillo Rojas served as Chica Neibles' assistant. The victim's current condition was not available.
All three people are charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, practice of medicine without a license, and possession of illegal substances.
They remained in jail at Horry County's J. Reuben Long Detention Center Thursday afternoon.
Cozart also helped police identify what he says police found inside the apartment, including intravenous needles, scalpels, what he described as a folding massage table and other equipment.
"The suitcase they smuggled the equipment in, a small portable liposuction machine, a small portable laser liposuction apparatus, and an infusion pump," Cozart listed.
Cozart said whether it is online or at an office, people offering procedures they do not have enough training in is more common than many people think.
"There are doctors who say they're board certified, but they don't say what they're board certified in," Cozart explained. "They may be family practice. They may be internal medicine. It doesn't mean they're board certified plastic surgeons if they're doing liposuction. There's no law against it. There's no scope of practice law in South Carolina."
He explained it is important for someone considering plastic surgery to find a doctor who has a board certification in plastic surgery. He said sometimes doctors certified in other areas such as family practice or even gynecology for example switch to doing plastic surgery and they do not have enough training.
"Most of the physicians who do liposuction who aren't plastic surgeons go to a weekend training course or maybe a week training course instead of a seven year residency like the rest of us plastic surgeons do - at least a five to seven year residency."