Leah Maynard, 35, had surgery in 2013 after breast feeding her two children left her with a loss of elasticity and a lack of confidence.
But instead of giving her a boost, the surgery left her embarrassed and destroyed her trust in plastic surgery after being operated on by surgeon Amedeo Usai.
Mr Usai, who for some time worked out of Winckley Square, Preston was later struck off after five complaints relating to botched surgeries and emails that hit out at patients with vile sexist slurs.
Leah, who lives on the outskirts of Preston, said: “I wanted the surgery initially because I had breast fed my two children and I had lost all elasticity and volume. I was a C cup before and I ended up a DD, so it wasn’t a massive difference. I just wanted them to look fuller again.”
But, in the hands of Usai, who has since returned to his native Italy, the surgery went wrong.
“The pocket on the left breast had been made too large enabling the implant to move about. It was very uneven and it wore away at the tissue,” she said.
“It completely knocked my confidence and I was so self-conscious. It was doing things like going swimming with the children or being on holiday that were the worst – you could see that one breast was larger than the other. It was very noticeable. I just thought it would fix itself, but it got worse. It took me years to trust another surgeon.”
Usai was investigated after a string of complaints from five women over his face lift, liposuction, and breast augmentation treatments at private cosmetic clinics across Greater Manchester between 2009 and 2013.
Leah said she didn’t feel confident enough to make a complaint, and was busy with raising her children and working.
The former dental nurse said she “just got on” with life, despite spending seven years feeling ashamed and blaming herself for rushing to have the surgery before the end of her maternity leave, and choosing the first surgeon who gave her a consultation.
But last year, as she prepared to start a full-time university course, she finally decided take action.
“I had time to think during lockdown and reassessed what was important so I decided to do something about it as it was affecting my quality of life,” she said.
Leah wanted corrective surgery before she started her course so that she could concentrate on her studies without worrying about her body.
“I was so nervous,” she said. “The first time round I was naïve - I went into it thinking ‘he’s a registered surgeon’ so I trusted him. I thought I could just trust every surgeon.
“This time, I did lots of research and checked all the reviews. I just wanted to fix it and look normal again.”
Leah - who has not received any compensation for the work done by Usai - finally plucked up the courage to go to a consultation and it was then that she met consultant plastic surgeon Gerard Lambe at the Reflect Clinic in Manchester for the first time.
“The first thing he did was to give me realistic expectations,” she said. “He told me what I could achieve and what I couldn’t.
“I was filled with emotion and I felt embarrassed. But he made me feel comfortable. Afterwards I received continuous support. The clinic even called me the next day to ask how I was.
“The main factor was that I trusted him. When I went in for the second consultation, he had arranged for another patient to talk to me, to give me the patient’s perspective. He could see my vulnerability and he wanted to help me.”
Leah agreed to have the corrective procedure and underwent the op in January with an overnight stay at the Spire Hospital in Manchester.
“Everything was brilliant. They removed the original implants, replaced them under the muscle and repaired the damage that had been done,” she said.
“I was absolutely amazed with the results – they exceeded all my expectations.”
Leah, who has a son, 12 and a daughter, eight, said the surgery meant she could start her mental health nursing degree without worrying about her appearance or health.
“This means I can concentrate properly on my studies,” she said. “It has been life-changing for me. I just feel lighter and I am so much happier in myself now I know my body is okay.
“There was a risk that it would have started to wear away the skin, so it was a worry. Now I’ve got peace of mind, not just aesthetically, but knowing that my body is healthy.”
Leah said she was also reassured by the continuing care from the Reflect Clinic staff, with clinic manager Jayne Bailey calling regularly to check how she was doing after the surgery.
She added: “My advice for anyone in this position would be to go for it. Whether it’s reconstructive or to boost confidence, I’m all for cosmetic surgery if it’s going to make you feel better physically or emotionally.
“This experience was so different to the first time round. I was naïve with the first procedure – he was a surgeon and he was qualified. I never thought for a moment he would end up being struck off.
“I would say to anyone considering surgery - do your research, check the reviews and go to as many consultations as possible to get different opinions. Don’t be taken in by a cheap deal, it’s not about the money, but the trust you have in your surgeon. And don’t let Covid put you off!”
Advice on choosing surgery:
Reflect Clinic Director Joanna Lambe echoed Leah’s advice about research and urged potential patients to avoid clinics that are focused on price or who do not offer the chance to meet the surgeon beforehand.
“First visit their website and social media pages to see if their ethos is in line with what’s important to you,” she said.
“Then ask do you feel safe in the hands of your cosmetic surgeon? Can you meet them before they operate on you? You can go on review sites to see how experienced and skilled your cosmetic surgeon is and see the results they have achieved with before and after photographs.
“Cosmetic surgery can really impact on a woman’s life in a positive way as we have heard time and time again, so hearing patient stories is a very positive part of their journey and helping them to feel good about. themselves is the best part of our job.”
Gerard added that building a relationship of trust between the surgeon and patient was a top priority.
“We are very lucky that we can say no to patients that we think have body issues or are not in the right frame of mind, or “the right place” to make a decision on cosmetic surgery,” he said.
“We see them at least twice for their consultation so that they can be sure that they want to go ahead. We also encourage them to ask friends and family and discuss it fully. To help them decide on the right sized implants we use virtual reality breast software so they can see their breasts in different sizes and in different clothes to achieve the look they desire.”
Joanna said inquiries about cosmetic surgery procedures had surged during lockdown.
“Lockdown led to people being increasingly sat at home thinking about and reassessing what they want in life. They have spent a lot of time on Zoom or Facetime calls for work or with family, which has made them look at themselves with new eyes,” she said.
In particular, she said there had been an increase in upper eyelift surgery, breast surgery, mummy makeovers and labiaplasty surgery.