When 31-year-old Choeun Nuon awoke in the emergency room of Palmetto General Hospital, she remembers hearing the nurses and doctors shouting out her condition: "She's bleeding! More blood, more blood!"
Nuon, who lives in California, had traveled to Miami for liposuction and a Brazilian butt-lift from Dr. Anthony Hasan, a plastic surgeon known for creating shapely "Hasan dolls." But after her surgery the morning of February 23, 2017, Nuon began feeling woozy. As her blood pressure dropped, the mother of two faded in and out of consciousness. Finally, more than two hours later, the doctor's staff called 911.
At the hospital, emergency-room doctors treated Nuon's punctured lumbar artery. A nurse kept tapping her face to prevent her from passing out.
"That's when I knew something was life-threatening," Nuon says today. "I just felt like I was dying."
The near-death experience would have been bad enough, but while Nuon was recovering, she learned her plastic surgeon wasn't the expert she thought he was. In 2010, Hasan had pleaded guilty in a prescription-drug fraud case — a conviction that caused his medical license to be revoked in California. Then, in 2013, one of Hasan's patients, 51-year-old Maribel Cardona of Naples, died following a Brazilian butt-lift procedure he had performed.
Armed with those facts, Nuon filed a medical malpractice lawsuit last week against Hasan and the Palmetto Lakes Surgical Center, where she went under the knife. The complaint accuses Hasan and the center of negligence.
"This is not the first time," says Nuon's attorney, Andres Beregovich of Orlando. "These women — they're maimed, butchered, and killed, and they get sent to these local hospitals and all the ER doctors know about it."
Attorneys for Hasan and the Palmetto Lakes Surgical Center did not respond to calls and emails from New Times seeking comment about the case.
In addition to the allegations of negligence, the lawsuit also says Hasan and his staff misrepresented his credentials to solicit unsuspecting patients. Nuon says she decided to book her surgery with Hasan after seeing positive reviews on a website called Real Self, where Hasan claimed to be a board-certified plastic surgeon, she says. At her pre-op appointment, Nuon says, the doctor's medical assistant also told her that he was board-certified.
In reality, though, Hasan has no certification from the American Board of Plastic Surgery or any other body of the American Board of Medical Specialties. According to the Florida Department of Health, his training is mostly in dermatology. But in the Sunshine State, any licensed doctor may perform plastic surgery.
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Beregovich, the attorney, says that's one reason patients need to be careful about whom they see for cosmetic procedures.
"Nothing is guaranteed," he says. "Do you want a doctor who's got the certification from the agency that accredits them for that? Or do you want a doctor who's a dermatologist who did like five days at a plastic-surgery seminar somewhere five years back? There's a big difference."
Nuon says she is still physically and emotionally recovering from her traumatic experience at the surgical center. Although the scars on her stomach look "horrible," she's too afraid to go back in for another surgery. Almost two years after the procedure in Miami, she still has trouble sitting for long periods and has recurring nightmares of waking up in the ER. And to this day, she says she has never received an apology from Hasan.
"Every woman that he botched and hurt... we all deserve our justice," Nuon says. "His license needs to be revoked or something."