Botched boob job haunts woman

Zoe Greszler • Jan 28, 2015 at 4:40 PM

For a lot of us, the choices that we made when we were young may make us blush. There might even be stories we would rather forget. And for some, like Nafsika Lourentzatos, a number of the choices may leave their mark on us -- literally -- for years to come.

When Lourentzatos was about 17, she made such a mistake in a New York hotel room made into a mini hospital of sorts.

Nafsika had been unhappy with her body since she "was a little kid" and had decided to do something about it.

This decision would literally leave her scarred even after more than 15 years and at least five corrective surgeries.

The Mistake

"Ever since I've been a little kid....I loved the way my mom looked and I wanted to look like her," Nafsika said. "I've always been kind of small chested and (my breasts are) set far apart. I wore pushups. I used to stuff my bras. I was never content."

"So my mom told me when I was 18, if I still felt that way, she would pay for me to have (a) boob job," Nafsika said. "Well one day when I was about 16 one of my friends and I watched this program that talked about what all went on to get a boob job. I never realized how extensive it was or anything. I was turned off by it and thought that it just wasn't for me."

But she never gave up her hope to feel comfortable and happy in her own skin.

"Then a friend of a friend heard of a doctor doing silicone breast injections in hotel rooms," she continued. "At 16 or 17 years old I was thinking of the faster results without surgery. Plus it was cheaper, like $1,500 compared to $5,000.

"It never occurred to me to check his qualifications or the safety of the procedure," she said.

"The silicone itself isn't dangerous," Lourentzatos said. "It's when it starts to attach to things and when it get(s) into the blood stream it get(s) dangerous. And it wasn't like this guy wasn't a real surgeon in his own country, he just was never certified in (the) United States and the things he did weren't approved in the U.S."

"I don't want to use age as an excuse for negligence but just to explain my thinking," she said. "At 16 or 17 I wasn't thinking about the effects of all of this or I wonder if this is legit, but I was thinking about the immediate results.

"So I went and didn't tell my mom but I didn't really see the results that I wanted. But I figured it wasn't that much money considering, so I just basically said 'oh well'," she said.

And so Nafsika Lourentzatos' troubles began

"Over time I started to notice little lumps around my breasts," she said. "But I would try to ignore it and forget about it. I didn't want to admit that it might be from the injections."

Admitting a Problem

Eventually though, Lourentzatos became worried.

"But I became self-conscious embarrassed," she said. "They started moving and changing shape and were very uncomfortable."

"I eventually wound up telling my mom and at 22 years old I went to go and see a doctor," she said.

It was one of many visits that would follow.

"He told me that the silicone had now attached to my breast tissue and that it had to be removed. They could not separate it from my breast tissue and so my breast tissue would all need to be removed as well."

"At 22 I just thought I couldn't handle that and got up and left," she said.

For the next seven years Lourentzatos tried to ignore the growing lumps on her chest as they continued to spread even away from her breasts.

Finally she realized something had to be done.

"I had hip and hand surgery at 29 and by 30 I started to think 'You know my body isn't what it was and this isn't good,'" she said. "I really started to take it seriously. I went and saw three breast surgeons and plastic surgeons trying to get a different opinion, but they all told me the same thing, that I would need to have my boobs removed."

Finally accepting her fate, Lourentzatos made the firm decision not to have history repeat itself and began to research different doctors and plastic surgeons in the area.

"I wound up finding Dr. Glasberg," Nafsika said. "I really liked him and how he was with his patients. I saw some before and after photos and I felt comfortable."

At this point, the self-conscious woman was worried more about her health than her looks.

"He told me, 'If you want to look like a model off of Playboy magazine, that's not what I do.' He said that they normally deal with this sort of a surgery with cancer patients and so my case was treated like cancer. I did have a foreign growth and it needed to be removed along with my breast tissue."

A "Particularly Challenging" Case

"After the first surgery I was supposed to wake up with new breasts and I didn't," she said. "I woke up and I just knew that something was wrong. I looked down and I saw that my chest was flat and tried to tell my boyfriend to check for me to see if I had boobs. I was very upset and disappointed.

Dr. Scot Glasberg, a plastic surgeon with more than 20 years' experience, explained that the surgery had revealed a situation even worse than they had imagined.

"I've worked on plenty of cases where the patient has complications following bad plastic surgery," Glasberg said. "I've never had one specifically like (Nafsika Lourenznoski's) though. Hers has been particularly challenging."

"The problem with Nafsika's case was that the silicone had spread from the breast tissue and spread throughout the chest cavity. When it does this, it attaches itself to the soft tissue. This makes it particularly challenging because you cannot only remove the silicone, all of the breast and affected tissue needs to be removed.

"Silicone itself is not necessarily dangerous," Glasberg said. "Free silicone, as Nafsika had, is if it enters the blood stream. It can cause scar tissue and granulomas. It is no longer the standard of medicine.

"We had expected to be able to go in, remove it and reconstruct the new breasts all in the first procedure, but we could not. The silicone had spread so much that just getting some of it out was too much trauma on the skin."

This experience, though, did not make Lourentzatos lose her faith in her doctors.

"At the end of the day I thought 'You guys are the doctors. You know what you're doing,'" she said.

The battle wages on for Lourentzatos. She has since had at least five corrective surgeries, with at least one to two more after this year's.

"It's been a big mess just from this one mistake," she said. "I still can't lie down on my side, it hurts. And I still have no breasts."

Lesson Learned, Tips for the Future

There is no problem with getting plastic surgery, even for simply cosmetic reasons," Glasberg said. "The key is to find the right person who has been professionally trained and is accredited by the plastic surgeons board. There is still always a risk. There is risk associated with all surgeries, but you will be much better off and safer with someone properly trained."

What does that mean though?

Well, typically after four years of medical school and six to eight years of residency (also called fellowship), the physician then needs to take a written and an oral exam and throughout their medical career they need to participate in continuing medical education.

"So, basically if they have gone through all of this, you can rest assured they are pretty well trained," Glasberg said.

To make sure that a surgeon is board certified, Glasberg offered a few tips, including making sure that they work at an accredited facility, asking simple questions including "'How many procedures have you done? Can I see some before and after photographs of the work you've done?'" and ask to speak with a previous patient who experienced the same surgery.

"You need to get a feel for the surgeon and develop a relationship with the surgeon to see if you feel comfortable and if it seems professional," Glasberg said. "If someone found a surgeon running the business out of a hotel room, hopefully they would leave. You want the safest scenario possible. ...It should be a pleasant experience."

Glasberg said the easiest way to find a certified surgeon is to visit www.plasticsurgery.org and type in your zip code or state.

Why She Shares Her Story

Lourentzatos said when she was first approached with the idea of sharing her story she didn't want to. A family member changed her mind, though.

"I was so embarrassed and I didn't want to be judged for what I did when I was 17," she said. "But then what my cousin said is really what made me change my mind and decide to go public with my story. She asked me if I could save one other 17 year old the pain that I had to go through, wouldn't I? So I thought she was right and I went ahead with it."

Looking back, Nafsika still has regrets.

"I wish I had been more careful and either have gotten a real boob job or nothing," Lourentzatos said. "If I gave advice it would be to ask as many questions as you can and ask to see before and after pictures.

"I'm not trying to play the victim, as some have accused me of," she said. "My only message to others is to love yourself. Love yourself enough to ask questions and research it. I just want to help the other 17 year olds out there from making the same mistakes I did."

Norwalk Reflector Videos