Silicone injection deaths, disfigurements, and injuries

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silicone injection

Above: a trans woman arrested in 2011 for allegedly pumping cement, mineral oil and flat-tire sealant into clients, two of whom later had to be hospitalized.

In March 2010, a 43-year-old woman, Fiordaliza Pichardo, a steady customer for years, got an injection from Elsa Then and died two days later of an embolism to the lungs.

In 2003, a transgender “pumper” named Donnie Hendrix and an accomplice were sentenced to prison after a woman they were injecting with silicone designed for use in making furniture died of silicone in her lungs.

In August 2003 Guadalupe Camarena was charged with aggravated assault and serious bodily injury after Delfino Gonzales died of asphyxiation three days after being injected. Physicians described the death as “agonizing.” This death came just weeks after another Houston resident, San Chiem, died two days after receiving silicone injections.

In January 2004, 23-year-old Andre D. Jeter succumbed to complications from silicone injection one month after suffering convulsions and falling into a coma during “pumping party” in Georgia. Stephen Oneal Thomas, Nikkia Scott, Mark (Jazz) Edwards, Kontavius Parks, were charged in the case.

A reader writes in August 2003:

One I just want to be the first to really promote active awareness of the dangers of sillicone, and yes I’m bordering on becoming a horror story, age 21 had injectable silicone, gone thru all sorts of medical problems while younger including immune failure, and more now 26 I have tumors/and lymphatic tissue granulomas… untill now I have not had them removed because I don’t know of the results or anyone whose had any success with such or whom might be the best to consult with… do you have any advise?

Because it is an illegal procedure, many doctors will not remove injected silicone unless there is a medical necessity. I will try to find information on options.

Below is a March 2004 article on abcesses (pus-filled pockets) in 25 women who were pumped in the New York area.

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2004 Mar;50(3):450-4. Related Articles, Links 
Mycobacterium abscessus cellulitis and multifocal abscesses of the breasts in a transsexual from illicit intramammary injections of silicone.
Fox LP, Geyer AS, Husain S, Della-Latta P, Grossman ME.
We report the case of a 29-year-old transsexual who developed Mycobacterium abscessus infection after receiving intramammary liquid silicone injections in the nonphysician office setting. Our patient represents 1 of 14 confirmed and 11 suspected cases in New York City of M abscessus infection after illicit cosmetic procedures. As injectable cosmetic procedures are becoming increasingly popular, dermatologists should be aware of both the common and unusual complications. Furthermore, all physicians should be alerted to the current cluster of M abscessus infections after injections for cosmetic purposes by nonmedical practitioners in New York City.
PMID: 14988690

From a reader in May 2005:

Hi, some months ago I allowed a New Jersey transgender woman to talk me into allowing her to inject me with silicone in my hips and buttocks for a fee.  After the injections I became critically ill and was rushed to the hospital.  “I couldn’t breathe!”  I was in respiratory distress, nor could I stand or walk.  After I was examined I was told that the silicone had poisoned my system and that they could not promise any positive outcome, and that I could possibly die.  Today, I am still having problems with joint pain, nerve and psychological damage.  I am also (HIV +) and all the silicone did was push me closer to death.  My immune system was compromised by the silicone and all the anti HIV meds are now not working.  I honestly wish to God that I would have never had the procedure done.  I was such a fool.  All I can say to all the girls out there who are considering getting pumped with silicone is; Please, please don’t do it.  It’s not worth losing your life over or the pain and health problems that go with it.  And you will be very sorry in the long run.  Thanks for posting the information on this web page because all the girls need to know the facts.  I wish I could’ve read it before I got injected with silicone.

San Diego, June 2005:

Sammia ” Angelica” Gonzalez allegedly pumped several trans women in the San Diego area, and two immediately had trouble breathing and had to be placed on emergency life support. One of the women is not expected to live.

John Di Saia MD wrote:

Here we go again folks. Silicone gel injections are once again becoming popular. This time people are dying from them. The Reuter’s piece cites examples in San Diego and Los Angeles, California. A few years ago it was in Florida. We don’t learn.

We have known that silicone gel injections were a dangerous proposition for years. Why is it that people still seek them?

I remember as a resident a patient who had had silicone gel injected into her breasts. This left her with breasts filled with nodules that felt like rocks. These hurt her a great deal. We ended up reconstructing her breasts utilizing her tummy tissue (Free TRAM) following mastectomies. Her results were numb breasts, but the pain was gone.

A high price to pay for being stylish. Please research that which seems “new and different” before having it. You might find that it is neither new nor different. It might also not be desirable.

Here’s a link to an interview with Dr. Sherman Leis on silicone injections:

Silicone endangers transgender group

By Alex Roth

photo by PEGGY PEATTIE / Union-Tribune

Arlene Lafferty (above) uses makeup to hide the adverse effects of silicone injections in her face. She says her decision to drive to Tijuana for the injections a few years before her sex-change operation was a youthful mistake.

July 3, 2005

A few years before a sex-change operation turned her into a woman, Arlene Lafferty decided she wanted to look more feminine. So she drove to Tijuana, where a doctor injected silicone into her face.

The before-and-after photos are striking: What had been a masculine visage became soft and curvy, with high, rounded cheekbones – a feminine face, a woman’s face.

Three decades later, however, Lafferty’s cheeks have dropped and her forehead has hardened into a series of discolored, needle-marked bumps. She’s developed rheumatoid arthritis, a condition she attributes to the silicone rather than the aging process. (She won’t reveal her birth date because “a lady never tells her true age.”)

The Mission Valley-based electrologist gestured at her sagging face and warned about injecting a product whose industrial applications include window sealant and bathroom caulking.

“This is what you have to look forward to in the years to come,” she said.

Injecting silicone into the body for cosmetic purposes is a procedure that few if any doctors would recommend. Nevertheless, it remains popular in the nation’s transgender communities, where illegal “pumping parties” provide the chance for groups of people to get injections at somebody’s house, apartment or motel room.

Two weeks ago, two people who attended a pumping party in North Park were hospitalized after receiving injections in their hips and buttocks. Both remain comatose, one isn’t expect to live and San Diego homicide detectives have issued an arrest warrant for the woman suspected of giving the injections.

In recent years, several people in other states, including Georgia and Florida, have been prosecuted for giving silicone injections to transgenders who died as a result.

Yet the practice continues, in San Diego and elsewhere, for a variety of reasons, according to Lafferty and other members of San Diego’s transgender community, whose population is estimated at between the hundreds to perhaps 5,000 or more.

Some get the injections as a low-cost alternative to a sex-change operation or pricey hormone treatments. Some don’t realize the health risks. Many are desperate to appear as feminine as possible so they can get jobs and avoid being mocked on the street.

In short, they don’t want to look like cross-dressing men. They want to look like women.

“It’s about being able to get up in the morning and walk down the street without being ridiculed or physically abused,” said Tracie Jada O’Brien of the Transgender Community Coalition of San Diego.

The misuse of silicone for cosmetic touch-ups is not unique to the transgender community. Dr. Leroy Young, who heads the emerging trends task force of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said a woman once came to him after receiving silicone injections in her lips at a pumping party.

The results had been disastrous. Young informed the woman, whose wedding was only weeks away, that he could do nothing to fix the damage.

“She ended up with lips that look like Donald Duck,” said Young, a St. Louis plastic surgeon.

Except in certain retinal procedures, the federal Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any medical use for silicone injections, Young said.

Putting silicone into the body, experts say, can have horrific consequences. The substance can migrate to the lungs or into the blood stream, causing obstruction of the blood vessels. It can produce scar tissue that forms into hard lumps in the body – “just like a bag of marbles,” Young said.

“There are an unbelievable number of dangers,” said Dr. Steven Cohen, a La Jolla plastic surgeon.

San Diego police aren’t releasing the names of the two San Diegans who now lie comatose on life-support systems after attending a June 19 pumping party on Florida Street.

San Diego police homicide detective Kevin Rooney said the woman suspected of giving the injections – Sammia Gonzalez, 39, of Lynwood, near Los Angeles – is wanted on suspicion of practicing medicine without a license. More charges could follow should either of the victims die, he said.

Rooney said detectives have few tips or leads on where Gonzalez might be.

“There’s a possibility she’s in Mexico,” he said.

Members of San Diego’s transgender community say Gonzalez has been here before. News of the parties usually spreads by word of mouth, with tips passed along at a few select clubs in North Park, Hillcrest and downtown.

Some transgender activists applaud people who perform what they call a valuable service, helping transgenders look “passable.” They note that many are in a Catch-22 situation – too poor to afford the plastic surgery or sex-change operations that would make them more employable by helping them look biologically female.

The idea that a person should simply abstain from these types of underground procedures “doesn’t acknowledge the complexities of some transgender people’s lives,” said Carrie Davis of the New York City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center.

Davis pointed out that pumping parties have been a fact of life for decades in New York, Los Angeles and other cities.

“These parties have been going on for as long as the transgender communities have been organized as such,” she said.

She believes the “vast majority” of transgenders are living happier lives as a result of their silicone injections, although she added, “I’m saddened that our community is driven to such extreme measures.”

Lafferty, the electrologist, understands why so many transgenders turn to silicone. Still, the risks outweigh the benefits, she said, citing her own long list of current ailments, which also include cataracts and bruises all over her body.

Her decision to get the silicone treatments was a youthful mistake, she says now, made at a time when she knew she could no longer live her life looking like a man.

“In my mind I never thought of myself as male,” she said. “I understand myself. I know what I want to be – not what I want to be, what I am. And that’s female.”

Nowadays, most of Lafferty’s clients are transgenders who come to her to get permanent makeup or to get hair removed from their faces and other parts of their bodies. For an additional fee, she gives them gentle tips on how to dress, how to walk, how to modulate their voices.

“This is a charm school here,” she said one recent afternoon, sitting in her Mission Valley office.

The goal is to help her clients “to be able to pass as best as possible,” she said. “Not perfectly, but as best as possible.”