NEW YORK -- Cut-rate cosmetic procedures can have terrible consequences, and now one young woman who suffered from botched buttock injections is telling her story in the hope it will help others.
CBS2 New York's Dr. Max Gomez spoke to 30-year-old Sophelay Ouk about her agonizing ordeal.
"I was very insecure a year and a half ago, insecure with myself. Looking in the mirror, I wasn't happy with who I saw," Ouk said.
Plus, she said her boyfriend wanted a "dream girl" with a curvier behind. So in early 2014, she went to what looked like a clinic in her home state of Rhode Island to have about a half-gallon of liquid silicone injected into her buttocks.
"After he had finished the procedure I started to feel dizzy and short of breath. My heart was pounding, felt like it was going to come out of my chest," Ouk said. "I honestly thought I was going to die."
MRI scans show the extent of what was supposed to be silicone in the young woman's backside. In reality, the injected material could have been anything from crazy glue to mineral oil. Worse yet, doctors say it won't stay just in the injection area.
"It's going to spread and it's going to continue to embolize. It's going to go down her legs. It's going to go up her back. The skin is going to darken and the skin is probably going to die one day," said Dr. Tansat Mir of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
The substance also traveled to Ouk's lungs and led to almost 50 hospitalizations for pneumonia in the past year and a half. That can't be removed, but in a newly developed surgical procedure designed to preserve as much of her skin as possible, Dr. Mir and a team at Lenox Hill will try to remove some of what's in her buttocks.
This week, Gomez reports, they began a painstaking two-stage process to cut out the silicone-filled scar tissue. The goal is to reduce the huge burden on the young woman's immune system.
"The white cells in the immune system, it gets focused in the buttock, which prevents it from going to other places to fight infection," Dr. Mir said.
Ouk said she knows she'll never be completely cured, and she hopes other young women will learn from her mistake.
"I want girls to just really love who you are and just, you know, don't listen to what other people say," she said. "Make sure you ask for a license, ask for certificates and make sure that person is in fact a real surgeon."
She said the man who injected her claimed he was a doctor, and looked like one with a white coat and business card. But when she returned to the so-called clinic after she got sick, it was closed up, all the furniture was gone and there was no sign of the doctor.
Gomez advises anyone considering a medical procedure, including cosmetic treatments, to verify a doctor's credentials with the state health department.