A beauty therapist whose confidence hit rock-bottom after her breasts began to sag, went for cosmetic surgery abroad, which almost killed her.
Claire Hawker, 30, from Reading had been recommended the surgeon in Prague by a friend, and back home days later she flaunted her new figure, proudly.
However, in that moment her new size G breasts started leaking a brown discharge and suddenly burst.
Rushed to hospital, surgeons warned if they didn’t remove the mum-of-two’s implants immediately, she would die.
"I remember feeling scared then angry when I was told my implants would have to be taken out. I’d wanted them for years. But I had no choice," Claire says.
Claire had yearned for larger breasts for almost a decade.
Claire before the surgery
One was a 34B cup and the other was a C and both began to droop following the birth of her daughter, Jasmine, at 17.
"Working in the beauty industry it was important to me to look good and feel confident, though I hadn’t for a very long time," she says. "I would look in the mirror and feel so self-conscious about that part of my body. I wished my breasts could be bigger."
But Claire couldn’t afford expensive cosmetic surgery. As a single mum what she earned went on raising her daughter.
"My appearance was affecting how I felt at work though. As a beauty therapist it was critical I looked and felt good, but my clothes hung on me like a sack of potatoes."
Then in July 2008 a friend, who’d had liposuction at a cosmetic surgery in Prague, recommended it to Claire.
She researched the clinic online and discovered she could have a breast uplift and implants for £2,300 – a third of the cost she would pay in the UK.
She asked her mum, Jan Coker, for her opinion, and she told her clients had also recommended going abroad for surgery, and she supported her daughter’s decision.
With flights and expenses Claire took out a loan for £4000 and a year later, as she and her friend boarded a plane to Prague, she was excited she’d soon have the body she’d always dreamed of.
After five days exploring the city, Claire met the surgeon who would perform her procedure.
She says: "The receptionist at the clinic explained that the surgeon didn’t speak much English so I should show him photos of what I wanted.
"But I assured myself he knew what he was doing and I showed him some magazine clippings of celebs with size G breasts, like I wanted."
However, when she woke up two hours later, Claire, whose breasts were bandaged up so she couldn’t seem them, was in agony as pain shot through her chest.
She says: "I told my friend I thought I was going to die."
The next day, a surgeon changed Claire’s bandages, before she was discharged, at which point she still hadn’t seen her new breasts.
Then the following day, as Claire boarded a plane home, her breasts continued to ache and she took some tablets the surgery had given her to ease her suffering.
She decided she should expect some pain following surgery, and did her best not to worry.
For the next few days Claire slumped on the sofa barely able to move her arms due to the pain she was in.
But a week later, despite still being bandaged up, Claire was ready to visit the salon where she worked to show her mum and colleagues her new breasts.
As she lifted her top however, she noticed her bra was damp and a brown, smelly discharge was leaking from her left breast.
She says: "My mum said she could see my implant poking out of a 50p sized hole in my skin. My skin, which had been stitched up after my surgery, had burst open."
Then at Wexham Park Hospital, in Slough, a surgeon examined Claire’s breast and as he did the skin under her right breast split too.
"He said that my implants were too big and they’d ripped open the skin around them, which had become infected and had to be removed or I would die," Claire explains.
The surgeon told Claire that she was the fourth person he’d seen that week who’d gone overseas for cosmetic surgery, which hadn’t worked.
Later that day Claire was taken in to theatre to have her implants removed.
Claire after the implants were removed
When she came round she was told her breasts hadn’t been fully stitched up as for the next five days surgeons would wash out any infection that lingered in them.
A week on they were stitched up loosely so that her skin could heal naturally. Then during her second week in hospital, each day nurses changed her dressings.
Claire says: "I regretted going overseas so much. It hadn’t been worth it."
After she was discharged Claire had to return every two weeks for the next year so that nurses could clean her wounds and check her breasts were healing.
However, no-one could do anything about Claire’s confidence, now she’d been left with small breasts and horrific scarring.
She says: "My breasts looked even worse than before and I worried even if I got new implants the skin under them would always look like I’d been burnt.
"At least the uplift I’d received overseas hadn’t gone wrong so my breasts looked alright when I wore strappy tops.
"But I continued to miss the fullness my new breasts had given me and my confidence, at work and going out with friends, and I felt at an all-time low."
Claire was told that she would have to wait at least two years, and until she’d made a full recovery, before she could have further surgery.
Though it would cost her thousands, and Claire was still paying off her loan for her original surgery, she knew she didn’t want to go back to how she’d been.
Then in May 2013 she spotted a magazine ad asking for people for a documentary about botched cosmetic surgery called Botched Up Bodies. In return they’d receive free corrective surgery.
Claire says: "I was anxious about appearing on TV but my mum encouraged me and I decided it was worth it to get the body I wanted."
After all surgery
At Royal Welbeck Hospital, in London, a leading cosmetic surgeon, Dr Nick Percival, from Cosmetic Surgery Partners, examined her and recommended an E cup.
On the day of her surgery last June Claire felt nervous, but when she came round hours later, minus any pain, and saw her new 34E and F breasts, she was thrilled.
Then in November she had a second procedure to remove the scar tissue she’d lived with for three years.
She says: "Having this surgery changed my life. I’m more confident now and love receiving compliments.
"I wish I hadn’t been so eager before to have cosmetic surgery. I should have researched my options and saved up to have it done in the UK.
"Instead, going abroad almost cost me my life. It’s not worth risking it for cheap cosmetic surgery."
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