A Spring Breaker Sues a Miami Beach Spa After Her Massage Goes Horrifically Wrong

All Jordan Berean wanted was to get her glow on. The pretty brunette was worn out after her sophomore year at an interior design school in New Jersey. So when she and some friends arrived at the Howard Johnson Hotel in Miami Beach in July 2010, she went straight to the health club downstairs. It labeled itself as "one of the finest and most complete spas... in the world." Even its name was reassuring: Nirvana Spa. What could go wrong?

Everything, apparently. According to a lawsuit she filed earlier this month, Berean's spa treatment turned into a nightmare. The spa promised to leave her skin "glowing," but Berean's "hot butter wrap" nearly melted her instead. After two years of medical bills, she wants payback.

"She was stuck in this little heating egg," says Berean's lawyer, Andrew Norden. "She yelled, but nobody came to help her. Then she passed out. It was terrifying for her."

Lawyers representing Nirvana Spa did not respond to requests for comment. Berean also declined to speak to New Times about her ordeal, but her attorney and lawsuit paint a terrifying picture of relaxation gone awry.

It started innocently enough when a spa employee slathered her in aromatic essential oils, aloe, and shea butter. But the curvy Jersey girl began to have doubts when she was wrapped tightly in a "cellophane-type material" and helped inside something called an Alpha Massage Capsule. It looked like a space-age coffin.

Once inside, she couldn't move. As the temperature soared, she started to become overheated and lightheaded. She shouted for help, but the attendant had vanished, the lawsuit says. Then Berean passed out.

When the Nirvana Spa employee finally returned, she took Berean out of the capsule and unwrapped her like an aborted butterfly. Berean gradually came to, but instead of calling paramedics, the employee put her in the shower and left her alone again, according to the lawsuit. Berean fainted a second time and hit her head.

Berean has undergone "extensive medical care and treatment" because of the near-fatal massage, the lawsuit claims. But Natalia Bazhenova, Nirvana's current manager who joined the spa after the incident, says the story sounds suspicious.

"It's not wrapping people in tape," she says of this particular hot-butter procedure. "The wrap is more for nourishment than anything else."

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.