Melissa Harrison’s experience of breast augmentation by disgraced cosmetic surgeon, Dr Blackstock, was so horrific that she says she contemplated taking her own life.
A mother of three and a dancer, Melissa went to see Dr Blackstock to “get back what she had lost”. She had seen him on TV and on Facebook and was attracted by his offer of an affordable payment plan.
From her research, she assumed Dr Blackstock was a qualified plastic surgeon. He had asked her to fill out a questionnaire and to get a referral from a psychologist – all of which added to her impression of his legitimacy. In Australia, a GP can offer cosmetic surgery services (as opposed to plastic surgery service).
But the first time Melissa saw Dr Blackstock in person was the day of the operation. They had only ever discussed implant options and sizes over the phone.
When she arrived at his western Sydney “surgery” Melissa says she felt anxious.
“It looked more like a shopfront or a veterinarian’s room,” Melissa says.
“And Dr Blackstock added an additional $1,000 to the bill for the procedure because he said my anxiety increased his costs and the time to do the surgery,” she says.
After a pre-op consultation of no more than five minutes she was on a steel surgical table. There was a nurse but no anaesthetist. Melissa says she felt the needles going in but didn’t feel like the anaesthetic was working. She felt the tearing and pulling. After complaining, Melissa says she felt like Dr Blackstock was irritated with her, but he increased the medication.
She could hardly focus when he put a mirror in front of her to ask her what she thought. She says all she could see was blood. She remembers saying she felt the implants were too big to which Dr Blackstock replied that she would only come back wanting them to be bigger if he didn’t use that size implant.
She remembers waking up in a lot of pain and being shown out via a back door but not before being given a form to sign to say that she was happy with the procedure. Her then partner had been called to take her to her hotel room. They had to call in to a pharmacy on the way for her to get the prescribed pain medication.
“The pain was unbearable and when I called to discuss the pain his response was to just take more medication.”
Melissa ended up becoming addicted to the prescribed pain medication.
Melissa says that for a long time after the operation she just felt unwell all the time. And she never healed properly.
Melissa was not happy with the outcome. She could see that her breasts were uneven. One was smaller than the other. Today, she still has visible scarring.
She developed fibroids in her breasts and later found out that Dr Blackstock didn’t test her for a bleeding disorder she had.
Ongoing impacts on her life
Rather than enhancing her self-image, Melissa says she became more self-conscious. Instead of helping her return to work, Melissa says she became mentally unable to work, ending up on a disability pension.
“I just shut down and shut everyone out. The impacts were not only on me but on my ability to look after my children. They suffered too.”
She says that, at the time, her grandmother was very ill and Melissa regrets that, because she was so unwell, she couldn’t spend time with her nan during her dying days.
“What I thought was going to be a simple operation to make my life better turned into five years of living hell.”
Dr Blackstock didn’t care
Melissa says when she made complaints to Dr Blackstock it was like he didn’t care.
“He provided little follow up and I felt like his attitude towards me changed post operation.”
“He told me as far as he was concerned the procedure was a success. He was irritated when we spoke and said that I was being like the other internet trolls.”
Dr Blackstock told Melissa he could remove the implants, but she would have to pay for that operation. She says he blamed some of her ongoing health concerns on the fact that she became pregnant (and miscarried) shortly after the procedure.
Other surgeons were reluctant to help her
Several years later, Melissa was well enough to consider having further surgery.
“I just wanted those implants out of me.”
But she didn’t have enough money to get them removed. Melissa got a payday loan, which had very high interest, to help cover the cost of the implant removal surgery.
“The operation has only removed my implants, not repaired the damage or enhanced them in a way that I originally wanted.”
Catherine Henry Lawyers helped Melissa reach a settlement
Initially, another law firm was representing Melissa in action against Dr Blackstock.
“That lawyer dropped me because she didn’t feel I had a case. I found Catherine Henry Lawyers and they have helped me reach a settlement that I am happy with.”
“Catherine Henry Lawyers understood what I had been through and were open and honest about my options in making a case against Dr Blackstock.”
“Finding Catherine Henry Lawyers to help me settle my case has also helped me to gain some closure and start to get on with my life.”
“If other people have had bad care from Dr Blackstock or other doctors I recommend they speak to Catherine Henry Lawyers.
Melissa’s message to other women
Despite her trauma, Melissa says she feels lucky compared to the many other women who were patients of Dr Blackstock.
“My message to women who are thinking about cosmetic breast augmentation is not do it. This experience has totally changed my attitude to cosmetic surgery.”
“If women are thinking about cosmetic surgery, they must do their research. I thought I had done enough research, but you need to ask lots of questions of different people to understand all of the risks.”
She says the impacts have been financial, physical and mental. Dr Blackstock also didn’t make her aware that the breast implants would need to be removed every 10 years or so, so the procedure was never going to be a one-off expense.
“I feel like I have some closure now. I am speaking out to make sure other women don’t experience what I went through. The system needs to change to prevent doctors like Dr Blackstock from practicing cosmetic surgery.
If you or a loved one has experienced poor treatment from a health care practitioner, our caring, expert female lawyers can help advocate for you and seek justice. Please talk to us about the options available to you.
Read the story of our client, Krystal Bailey, whom we’ve also helped successfully settled a case against suspended cosmetic surgeon Dr Leslie Blackstock.
Further media coverage and information about Dr Leslie Blackstock can be found at the links below: