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Dream of beauty turns to nightmare as liposuction causes scarring

05Oct

Once again, a patient injured after receiving an elective cosmetic surgery (liposuction) by a physician that is NOT a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon.  Don’t be fooled by “paid for” board certifications.  Plastic Surgery should be performed by a physician who is Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

“Dream of beauty turns to nightmare as liposuction causes scarring”
By Jameson Cook, Macomb Daily Staff Writer

Monday, February 8, 2010

Hope Cinquepalmi wept after she revealed the large scar on her back to a couple of strangers in an office.

The 46-year-old Clinton Township woman said the amalgamation of damaged skin tissue that stretches from her waist to the top of her ribcage resulted from a liposuction-gone-bad performed by Dr. Charles Mok at Allure Medical Spa in Shelby Township.

Cinquepalmi said the scar and another two-inch wide horizontal scar along her stomach bring pain and discomfort she’ll never be able to get rid of.

And it cost her $9,000 to replace fat with scar tissue.

“It bleeds, it cracks, it wakes me up throbbing,” she said. “It seems to be always there, moving, pulling. I have to rub it. My husband (Mauro) massages it and puts oils and lotions on it.

“It’s part of our life now.”

Formerly an enthusiastic sunbather, she can now barely stand to get undressed in front of her husband.

Cinquepalmi and her husband, Mauro, filed a malpractice lawsuit against Mok and Allure last November in Macomb County Circuit Court in downtown Mount Clemens. The Cinquepalmis and the defendants recently reached a confidential settlement.

In a written response to the lawsuit prior to the settlement, Mok and Allure denied wrongdoing and blame her.

They say her claims “are barred in whole or part by her own comparative negligence in failing to exercise reasonable care and caution for her own safety, health and welfare,” according to their attorney, D. Jennifer Andreou in court papers.

“It is denied that these defendants … breached the applicable standard of care in the treatment of plaintiff,” the defendants say.

But Dr. Michael Busuito, a surgeon at Somerset Plastic Surgery in Troy, said Mok and Allure “should not have used excessive traumatic laser use” on Cinquepalmi’s back in one procedure and a month later “should not have gone ahead with the abdominal liposuction procedure … when Mrs. Cinquepalmi was still having problems from the first surgery,” according to the “affidavit of merit” filed in the case.

Mok and Allure “should have timely consulted/referred Ms. Cinquepalmi to an appropriate wound care specialist” after both procedures.

“Cinquepalmi suffered skin, tissue and muscle damage to her back from damage to the blood supply and from burns to the skin, tissue and muscle resulting in permanent scarring,” Busuito said.

In an interview prior to the settlement, Cinquepalmi told The Macomb Daily she wanted liposuction to remove stubborn fat that arrived after she gave birth to her daughter 23 years ago.

She said she unsuccessfully tried to lose weight in her abdominal area through diet and exercise.

She saved money for years to get “lipo,” working as an accountant at a car dealership. As “a gift to myself,” 2-1/2 years ago she decided to take the plunge, with the support of Mauro, a Chrysler electrician.

She chose Mok and Allure because a teller who worked at a bank next door to her place of employment in Rochester Hills and another man she knew had gone to Allure for procedures.

Cinquepalmi said she didn’t check Mok’s qualifications.

According to his Web site, Mok, a D.O., is certified by the American Board of Phlebology (physicians specializing in venous disease), American Board of Osteopathic Emergency Medicine, American Society of Cosmetic Breast Surgery and American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine. In court documents, he says he is also certified in “tumescent liposuction” and “contour thread lift.”

Mok received his medical degree from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1989, according to his Web site, and completed his medical residency at Mount Clemens General Hospital, now Mount Clemens Regional Medical Center, where he says he also served as vice chairman of the emergency department.

Last Dec. 16, Mok celebrated the grand opening of a new, 20,000-square-foot medical facility, which occupies the entire third floor of a new medical complex, located at 26 Mile, east of Van Dyke in Shelby Township.

Mok has not had any complaints filed against him through his license obtained from the state Department of Community Health, according to state records.

The two-phase procedure on Cinquepalmi’s “back flank” and abdomen, including “laser preparation,” was supposed to leave only four small incision scars on her back, and a single narrow horizontal line along the front, Cinquepalmi said.

After the first procedure on her back on Aug. 17, 2007, the large wound on her back wouldn’t heal.

“She developed ulcerations on her back/flank at the surgery site,” the lawsuit says.

Off of work, she visited Allure for follow-up appointments eight out of 11 days from Aug. 21-31, according to lawsuit documents.

The wound wouldn’t close, requiring constant wrapping and attention, with the help of her husband, who took off time from work to care for her.

“I have one hell of a husband,” she said.

She was being seen by aides and assistants at Allure, she said. “They kept saying everything was fine,” she said, noting that now looking back at it she believes Mok “was avoiding me.”

Following three more visits Sept. 11-13, she returned for the front liposuction Sept. 14, which took place even though the “back ulcerations were still not healed,” court documents say.

Ulcerations continued in the back, and new ones developed in the front, she said. She visited Allure 10 times from Sept. 15-29.

Despite opens wounds now on the front and back, Mok insisted she was only suffering “bruising,” she said.

On Sept. 29, after a visit in which Mok told her she was “fine,” she was so worried she went to her family doctor, Dr. Keith McKenzie at Metropolitan Parkway and Utica Road in Clinton Township. McKenzie told her to immediately go to Mount Clemens Regional Medical Center’s emergency room, where she received wound care and was advised to see a wound specialist.

The next day, she went to The Wound Center on Garfield Road in Clinton Township, where Dr. Andrew Gavagan began treating her. Under his care, the wounds responded and healed the best they could under the circumstances.

“Mok should have referred her to a wound doctor immediately instead of trying to keep it in-house and sweep it under the rug,” said Frank Aiello, the Cinquepalmi’s attorney, in an interview prior to the settlement.

Cinquepalmi’s last contact with Mok prior to the settlement came within a couple of weeks of her last office visit.

She said she was shocked to receive a $9,000 check from Mok in the mail, accompanied by a “release” form that prevented her from making any further claims against him or the spa. She didn’t sign the check. She filed it away.

Cinquepalmi missed months of work due to the wounds. She returned and later was laid off due to the economy.

Before the procedure, she hadn’t planned to tell anyone outside of her immediate family about it. But eventually most of her friends, relatives and co-workers learned about it since she has to expend so much effort taking care of it.

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