Summers, 27, was working as a model at a trade fair, when she heard a promoter from another stall say that they were offering on-the-spot lip fillers, reports the British tabloid, The Sun. Summers was no stranger to plastic surgery; four boob jobs, one breast reduction, two nose jobs, two ear pinnings, six rounds of facial filling, six botox jabs, and three injections of collagen had cost her 46,500 pounds ($72,935), landed her in serious debt, and earned her the tabloid title of Britain's vainest woman. She loved it.
"They said they were licensed and legitimate," says Summers, "so I thought, 'Why not?' "
But this was no casual face primping. The procedure took only a few minutes and cost just 200 pounds, but soon Summers felt dizzy and couldn't feel her lips. When the numbness spread to her whole face, she went back to the stall where she'd had the procedure, but they'd packed up shop.
"It was then I felt I'd been well and truly conned," says Summers. "They were just have-a-go sharks."
Summers went home, and when she awoke the next morning, her lips were four times their normal size. She rushed to the hospital, but doctors didn't know what to do; they had no idea what had been put in her lips.
"I thought for a while I might be scarred for life or I could have even got an infection and died," she told The Sun.
Unlicensed plastic surgeons have mutilated the flesh of thousands of victims, and cost several their lives. Last week, Padge Victoria Windslowe was arrested on a third-degree murder charge, after allegedly administering an illegal and fatal silicone injection in a 20-year-old woman's buttocks in February 2011. The Philadelphia woman was arrested after allegedly giving a similar injection at a "pumping party," which caused a woman to suffer symptoms of heart failure as the substance traveled through her bloodstream and into her lungs.
In Florida, Oneal Morris was arrested last week as well, and charged with the death of a woman whose buttocks, hips, thighs and breasts were pumped with an unknown substance. The victim had told friends that the regions became hard, hot and black, and she subsequently suffered "massive systemic silicone migration," according to a medical examiner, and died. Other clients of Morris were allegedly pumped with a cocktail of cement, super glue, and Fix-A-Flat tire sealant by the South Florida woman.
In February, the police arrested Carmel Foster, who allegedly performed multiple breast augmentation surgeries with an unidentified substance in the back of her Tyler, Texas, hair salon. One of her clients was left in critical condition, according to a local officer.
As cosmetic surgery has become more common, some who seek it are treating it more casually -- happy to find a practitioner who will charge less than a $1,000 for a procedure that usually costs many times that. But cosmetic surgery is surgery, and cosmetic surgeons must legally be a medical doctor or a doctor of osteopathy, and have completed four years of medical school, in addition to a two- to six-year residency.
But even doctors with these qualifications might not be trained in plastic surgery. A surge in the popularity of these kinds of operations has led to "practice drift," reports USA Today, in which doctors move outside their normal specialities into cosmetic tweaking as a way to pump up profits. At the end of last year, only 11 states had statutes specifying that doctors have to be competent in all the procedures that they perform. In more than half of states, a surgery facility doesn't have to be licensed, and so may not have emergency drugs and equipment on hand.
Accreditation boards, like the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, can provide some assurance to patients who are looking for a surgeon who meets strict requirements for training and safety. So before you let a person inject something into your body, it's probably worth checking out the credentials.
"I played Russian roulette with my health and my looks," said Summers, whose lips still haven't fully returned to normal, "and I will never do it again."
CORRECTION:An earlier version of this story said that Carmel Foster's hair salon is in Houston.
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