Tuesday 13 November 2007

Cosmetic surgery poses dangers

Death from surgery complications

Just over two years ago, I was in Antwerp when the newsflash arrived within tragedy of an air crash in Nigeria that the first-lady of Nigeria Mrs. Stella Obasanjo had died as a result of complications of surgery.

What I found a bit odd was that she died in Spain, which is not known for patient tourism of the sort that wealthy Nigerians undertake with regularity at the simplest sign of a sweat.

A quick Google search for “surgery Spain” indicated that it was a haven for cosmetic surgery and it was quite saddening that a lady of privilege who seemingly had everything had decided there was something lacking about her appearance that she when under the knife and suffered a death by misadventure.

So, it is with additional sadness again that I read now from Barcelona of the death on Saturday of Dr. Donda West (58), the mother of Kanye West, a successful contemporary music producer and artiste.

Now, I am not in anyway conversant with Kanye West’s music and I am not indicating that the case of Dr. West has any similarity to that of Mrs. Obasanjo apart from the coincidence of both of them dying from complications resulting from a “cosmetic procedure”.

Whatever might have prompted the need for this procedure, Dr. West was by all means a very successful academic who until 2004 when she retired to manage her son’s interests was a professor and the chair of the English Department of Chicago State University.

Cosmetic surgery is inherently dangerous

The subtext here is that cosmetic surgery or procedures are not benign activities like brushing your teeth but sometimes radical intrusive activities that carry the risk of complications that could so unfortunately lead to the loss of life.

It worries me when I channel-hop and land on an episode of Dr. 90210 where the flamboyance of cosmetic procedures have been given a bizarre Hollywood treatment like walking into a shop to get dress or a pair of shoes.

People who are naturally good-looking and beautiful have gotten it into their heads that their beauty is not perfected till they have been cut, spliced, tucked, sucked or lifted to look and feel better in a never-ending visit to these debauched vanity merchants who have taken the work surgery to another level of hedonistic excess that could in and of itself invite the spectre of Nemesis.

It gets perverse and unhealthy when shows like Extreme Makeover (broadcast in 18 countries) capture the imagination of those who think their low self-esteem can be overturned by externalised amelioration which includes plastic surgery and a change of wardrobe rather than a substantive realignment of perspective through education and long-term mentoring.

Another spotlight from the past

The stories we never hear of are of those butchered into a repose and serenity from which they would never awake.

In 2004, the author of First Wives Club, Olivia Goldsmith (54), died from a heart attack whilst under anaesthetic for a procedure which would have involved removing excess skin under her chin – it highlighted with a bit of media feeding frenzy the inherent risks of elective cosmetic surgery.

This not to say that there no successes and sometimes lucky escapes or angelic moments to these procedures – many would say their procedure was worth every penny and boosted their self-confidence amongst all other positive outcomes – but where vanity rather than medical impetus drives and defines the need for surgery, if the consequences are dire, one becomes the more fool for it all and sadly so.

Remembering those who died

Beyond the foreboding and sharp intake of breath that should accompany every specific decision to go under the knife for a cosmetic procedure and the sense of satisfaction that one anticipates after the success of such an activity, we must with all the deepest sympathy remember those who never got that far.

It is with this heart that I express my sorrow for those who have lost loved ones and in this case Kanye West and pray that they receive strength, courage and fortitude to bear their loss and gain comfort from the joys of having known and fellowshipped with people whose memory and remembrance would never fade, though they be departed, they are never gone.


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