From stitches so tightly that their wounds burst open on the toilet to suffering from necrotic tissue after botched surgeries, dozens of Britons have been maimed by cheap surgeries abroad.
MailOnline shares the gruesome, never-before-told stories of two brave victims.
By sharing their life-changing trials, they hope their warnings will help others avoid the same fate.
Sarah* – The NHS saved my life
Dissatisfied with her appearance, Sarah wanted liposuction on her stomach and thighs in combination with a Brazilian Butt Lift.
In June, she took the leap.
On the advice of one of her friends, she booked a trip to Turkey for the procedures.
She paid £5,200 to go under the knife, an amount that included a stay in a five-star hotel in Istanbul and airport transfers.
It was only a fraction of the nearly £20,000 she would have been charged for the surgeries, had she had them done in Britain.
But after her operation, Sarah, from Yorkshire, became concerned about the lack of attention she was receiving from hospital staff.
‘I didn’t sleep a wink, didn’t see a nurse. I just lay there in blood and fluid,” she told MailOnline.
“When the nurses came in, they didn’t understand me. I kept thinking what the hell had I done.’
The housewife was discharged just two days after the operation.
And despite having just had major surgery, she was not offered transportation to the hotel.
When she returned to England, the stitches on her thighs suddenly tore open when she sat down to go to the toilet – leaving two centimeter deep wounds
Sarah rushed for help from the NHS and was told the wounds from surgery on her thighs had been sutured too tightly
It meant Sarah was forced to walk a quarter mile to her hotel while holding a plastic bag connected to the drains of her wounds as bodily fluids leaked out.
“No transfer or anything, we had to walk back to the hotel with our surgical drains in a carrying case,” she said.
The horror didn’t stop there though, as Sarah was immobilized for two days because she was in so much pain. She spent two days in her hotel bed covered in “puppy pads” to catch the fluid leaking from her stitches.
‘I filled a black bag every day. The room smelled disgusting of me and I was very weak and in pain.’
But unbeknownst to her, the worst was yet to come.
After a painful four-hour flight home, Sarah spent a few extra days in bed recovering.
The stitching on her thighs suddenly burst open when she sat down to go to the toilet, leaving two centimeter deep wounds.
“My legs just broke open, my heart was racing, I was so scared,” she said.
Sarah was rushed to hospital by her concerned family, where NHS medics gave her an emergency blood transfusion due to her rapidly falling blood pressure.
She was later seen by a plastic surgeon who was “disgusted” that she had been released from the Turkish hospital so soon after her surgery.
He told her that the stitching on her thighs was way too tight, so they could easily burst.
In addition, because so much tissue had been removed, her wounds had to heal “from the inside out,” meaning they couldn’t be sewn back up and require ongoing care to ensure they heal correctly.
Speaking to MailOnline, still recovering from her ordeal, four months later, Sarah was full of praise for the NHS and social care that have looked after her.
‘Nurses came every day, they were great. I thank our NHS, they saved my life.’
Shockingly, she never spoke directly to her surgeon until the day of the procedures.
Sarah saw a British plastic surgeon who was ‘disgusted’ that she had been released from a Turkish hospital so soon after her operation with wounds on her thighs that took months to heal
Instead, Sarah received recommendations on what surgery to have via text message from a member of his team after sending pictures of her body.
“I was like, ‘I trust you, let’s go for it,'” she said.
Sarah was originally impressed with her treatment when she was picked up from Istanbul in a ‘nice’ bus that took her straight to her hotel, along with other British women who were also there for operations.
This positive impression soured after meeting with the surgeon, who said he would mark her for surgery during the procedure.
Typically, marking the areas to be cut is done before surgery and with patient input to help prevent mistakes.
Sarah eventually got back part of her £5,200 but says this is poor compensation compared to what she said was a risk to her life.
Kate* – Turkish surgery left me with a necrotic nipple
Kate paid a small fortune to go under the knife for a series of procedures in Turkey in June.
Admitting that ‘vanity’ was her only reason, she booked an upper eyelid lift, upper arm lift, breast reduction with lift, tummy tuck and extensive liposuction all in one go for the price of £15,000.
Despite the princely sum, this is still only a fraction of what the 65-year-old would have paid in the UK.
Kate, from the North West, went with a British agency who offered to arrange everything for her to have the procedures carried out in one of Turkey’s largest cities.
“They offered the full work, five-star hotels, breakfast, bring a friend to stay with you, VIP airport pickup and transfers, massages, the whole package,” she said.
The part-time care assistant was made to believe that she was talking to a real doctor when she was arranging her package.
It wasn’t until after the surgery took place that she learned she was having conversations with the cosmetic surgeon’s wife.
While operations initially went according to plan, Kate began to worry that one of her nipples had turned an extremely dark color.
Kate would later discover that this was a sign that it was slowly becoming necrotic from reduced blood supply.
After the surgery, Kate was concerned that one of her nipples had turned an extremely dark color and would later discover that this was a sign that it was slowly becoming necrotic from reduced blood supply.
Kate paid tribute to NHS staff who have treated nipples, describing them as ‘fantastic’ and acknowledging that the taxpayer was essentially subsidizing the mistake made by foreign surgeons
But the grandmother was reassured by the Turkish team that this was normal.
She said, ‘I was told, ‘That’s okay, it’s the graft leaking blood below the surface, you’ll be fine,’ it all started to go downhill from there.’
After 10 days in Turkey, Kate returned to Liverpool but became increasingly concerned about the condition of her nipple.
“When I got home, I noticed my nipple was starting to get darker and dry,” she said. “It looked like it had scabs on it.”
Kate sent photos to the agency that organized her surgery, as well as to the surgeon herself, who merely advised her to use an antibiotic cream and moisturizer, which she did for a few weeks.
“For every picture I sent, every message I sent, I was sure it was right,” she said.
Kate even claimed that the Turkish medical team actively discouraged her from talking to her GP about her nipple.
She said the medics told her, “Those British doctors have no idea, they are not qualified to make decisions about this.”
However, after telling a friend about her condition, Kate was urged to seek medical attention and contacted her doctor.
He advised her to go to her nearby NHS drop-in center and Kate said staff were shocked by the condition of her nipple.
“The nurse I saw almost became hysterical, she made me cry. I was so shocked by her reaction,” she said.
The nurse sent her back to her GP, who arranged an urgent referral to the nearest hospital’s breast care department.
There, a specialist confirmed that the nipple had become necrotic and parts of it had to be excised.
They added that it was lucky Kate had come in when she did or she might have lost her entire nipple.
Since then, she has required weekly appointments, which include applying special vacuum bandages to promote healing.
Kate paid tribute to the NHS staff who treated her, describing them as ‘fantastic’ and acknowledging that the taxpayer was essentially subsidizing the mistake made by foreign surgeons.
While Kate’s necrotic nipple was her main concern, she was also dissatisfied with the shape of her arms after the lift and the shape of her hips after liposuction.
She now needs a series of corrective procedures and is paying £10,000 to have them performed, again bizarrely in Turkey.
Kate acknowledged that this may seem strange given her recent experience, but said the cost of surgery in Britain left her no choice.
“I just can’t afford it in the UK,” she said.
She called for more regulation on who can advertise and arrange operations for Britons abroad.
And for those thinking about going under the knife abroad, Kate had some advice.
“Do your homework, there are so many things to watch out for,” she said.
“Search for previous patients, get the surgeon’s history.”
*Names have been changed to protect anonymity.