Mom-of-four Jonica Bray underwent a complete body and face makeover on a family vacation – and saved thousands of dollars. WARNING: Graphic content.
“I was a little groggy when I woke up from surgery, and I could see out of the corner of my eye this big bucket, all wrapped in cellophane with a bow,” recalls Jonica Bray, a mother of four from Central Coast.
“I assumed it was flowers, or a fruit basket or something, because I couldn’t really see it properly, but then I looked inside…it was a bucket of my own fat. It had kind of come apart…it was absolutely disgusting.
It turns out the fat bucket was part of a Malaysian hospital protocol that requires a patient to receive proof of the results of their procedure – in this case, liposuction – before medical waste is disposed of.
“Once they showed it to me and I told them I was okay with it being thrown out, it was gone,” she laughs, “but it was definitely a new experience in A strange country.”
For Jonica, going under the knife in a foreign country is something she knows well, having traveled abroad many times for various cosmetic procedures. And (despite a surprise fat bucket) she was never less than thrilled with the results.
“The first time I had a procedure abroad was when I was 27,” she explains, “and I was working in the media, so I was offered the opportunity to try it. At this point, it was quite unusual to travel overseas for surgery, and Australians certainly weren’t doing it en masse like they do now.
For her first procedure, Jonica traveled to Malaysia to undergo hip and abdominal liposuction. “I’ve always had this belly – I’ve never had a flat stomach, despite doing all the ‘right’ things and eating well, exercising,” Jonica reveals.
“It always bothered me, so I jumped at the chance.”
The operation went well. Delighted with the results and boosted by the prices – which were a fraction of what people pay in Australia for the same procedures – Jonica had nothing but good things to say about her first surgery overseas. A few years later, after giving birth to her daughter, she began planning her next visit.
“Genetically, I suffer from very soft skin,” the small business owner explains, “which means it doesn’t have very high elastin levels. This leads to premature aging, and after having a baby, breasts are the first to go. They were just very saggy and shapeless, so I made the decision to have a breast reduction, facelift, and implants.
By making an appointment with the same Malaysian doctor who had had her lipo done years earlier, Jonica was able to afford flights, accommodation and surgeries for about half the cost of what she would have paid for the surgery alone. in Australia.
Affordable prices are a clear driver of the growing popularity of medical tourism in this country. Australians – at least before the pandemic – spent around $300 million a year on medical tourism alone, and that number is expected to rise significantly as borders and countries reopen.
It’s a practice about which Dr Naveen Somia, outgoing president of the Australian Society of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS) has some reservations.
“Cosmetic surgery abroad is part of the booming global medical tourism industry,” he explains, “Medical tourism which has been severely restricted during the pandemic will be boosted with the opening of borders and the easing of travel restrictions.
“There are risks associated with any surgery, whether performed in a state-of-the-art center here in Australia or overseas. However, there are additional risks that you should be aware of when choosing to undergo cosmetic surgery or any surgery abroad.
Dr Somia cites differences in accreditation standards, the fact that post-surgical complications such as blood clots can be exacerbated by air travel and the potential for antibiotic resistant bacteria in tropical countries as a few concerns to consider.
Furthermore, he warns against the practice of ‘phantom surgery’ – whereby the surgeon a patient has hired to perform their procedure is replaced by another doctor while they are under anesthesia.
“There are a number of reasons why a practitioner may choose to do this,” says Dr. Somia, “for example, surgery may be overbooked, or they may wish to use a less experienced (and cheaper) surgeon. to perform the procedure.
“This betrayal and breach of trust is not only unethical, it is illegal and undermines the relationship of trust between doctor and patient.”
For her part, Jonica says the level of care she received during her surgeries abroad exceeded any experience she had had back home.
“In addition to the financial benefits, I feel like the care I’ve received each time has been incredible,” she says.
“I’ve been back and forth to the hospital in Australia having babies and stuff. And my experience here hasn’t been great. But my experience in Malaysia and the Philippines has been five stars. C was next level, the amount of care and attention I received.
“For example, after my breast augmentation, the hospital sent a nurse back to my hotel with me. She stayed with me, made regular observations, changed my dressings, and was available to help me with anything I needed, all included in the price. Literally, if you wake up at 2am and crave some porridge, she’ll arrange it for you. It was paradise.
Five years and two more babies later, Jonica has signed up for another round of surgery, this time in the Philippines.
“After giving birth again at 39, things just haven’t gone back to how they were, despite all the good tries,” says Jonica. “I had an abdominal separation and still looked about five months pregnant. I went to see here in Australia and was told the only way to fix it was surgery.
Jonica signed up for what’s called a “Mummy Makeover” – a series of surgeries designed to reverse some of the issues that leave women embarrassed after giving birth.
This includes a tummy tuck or tummy tuck, where excess skin and fat is removed and the fascia tightened with sutures to create a taut-looking abdomen, as well as a mons lift, where the area above A woman’s pubic bone is pulled and sewn along the line of the bikini line, creating a smooth area instead of a bulge.
Included in the price of Jonica Mummy Makeover was whatever breast augmentation she chose — whether it was a facelift, implants, reduction, or all three.
“In Australia, to do all of this, I was looking for around $50,000 or $60,000,” she reveals, “But in the Philippines, for operations, including return flights, airport transfers, 10 nights accommodation and all my medication, I paid just $12,000.
Just before the pandemic hit, Jonica returned to the Philippines for a facelift, lipo and fat transfer – and this time she took her family for the holidays.
“We had a two-bedroom apartment that we lived in together,” she recalls.
“The hospital sent a private driver to pick me up. I went for surgery and my husband stayed with the children.
“I had a lower face and eyelid lift, neck liposuction and neck lift, then I had fat taken from my thighs and injected into my cheeks, lips and under my eyes. ”
This time the price was $6,000, less than a quarter of the cost of the home procedure.
Jonica was careful not to let the children see her directly after her operation.
“I was really swollen that first day, and we didn’t want the kids to see me and freak out – that would have been pretty scary, so my husband held the kids for the first few days, then the nurse came, she just slept on the couch in the apartment and looked after me incredibly well,” she says.
“By day 3 the swelling had gone down significantly and we were able to move to a compound where we spent the rest of my recovery. Other than the odd curious onlooker and someone who asked my husband if I had been in a car accident due to the condition of my swollen face, it was a relaxing vacation after that.
“Now that the borders are open, I wouldn’t mind a supplement of fat transfer fillers,” laughs Jonica. “So I think I will definitely go back for more!”
Jonica shares her surgery and life as a mother of four on instagram.