Leigh Aiple had spent more than $35,000 to go to Malaysia for the extreme plastic surgery he hoped would transform his life – a 360-degree tummy tuck, extensive liposuction, an upper eye lift, a chin tuck, lip filler, thigh lift and chest sculpting. But hours after he was wheeled off a flight back to Australia on May 11, 2014, he was dead, and now the Victorian coroner is investigating what went wrong for the 31-year-old who underwent two marathon surgeries within a week of each other.
Mr Aiple’s death almost two years ago raises questions about serious risks associated with the booming medical tourism trade – an estimated 15,000 Australians each year travel overseas for cosmetic and dental work. His mother Grace Muscat said the first surgery went for more than 11 hours, and complications followed rapidly: stitches burst open, wounds seeped for weeks. “When he came home, there were gaping holes, there was stitching everywhere,” Ms Muscat said, speaking at her home in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. “I didn’t want to pull a face so he wouldn’t get upset, when I saw it, I thought ‘Oh my god’.”
Records of Mr Aiple’s final weeks at the Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur, where his surgeries were performed, and then at a city hotel, were documented by the medical travel agency that arranged his trip, New Zealand-based Gorgeous Getaways.
One carer wrote of finding him in a blood-stained hotel room, fluid leaking from his side, the stitches on his back burst open, exposing a 10-centimetre wound. Ms Muscat said her son had also complained of swelling to his leg and ankle after surgery, which she alleges was never investigated. In an email to her on May 9, 2014, Mr Aiple wrote of a fainting spell he feared would ground him in Malaysia.