Teen Buried after Failed Breast Surgery

March 26, 2008 · Print This Article · Email This Post

Stephanie Kuleba, 18, Buried Today after Failed Breast SurgeryStephanie Kuleba, 18, was buried today in Florida. She had it all: popular and pretty, she was captain of the West Boca Raton High School’s varsity cheerleading squad in upscale Boca Raton, FL, drove a white Lexus to school, was an honor student, had received numerous scholarship offers from colleges and was on her way to Florida State University this fall as a pre-med student. She wanted to become a plastic surgeon. So what killed her? Plastic surgery.

While one of her friends described her as “perfect,” Kuleba apparently wanted to be even more perfect. While many of her friends thought she was having her breasts enlarged, Stephanie had asymmetrical breasts, a common condition, and an inverted areola. No medical intervention is necessary for these conditions, yet procedures to correct them are often done for “self-esteem” reasons. She and her mother arrived at Dr. Steven Schuster’s accredited outpatient clinic on Clint Moore Rd. in Boca at 8:00 a.m. last Friday. A little less than two hours into the surgery, something went terribly wrong.

Dr. Steven Schuster, Who Performed Stephanie Kuleba's Breast SurgeryStephanie’s metabolism increased and her muscles became rigid — the exact opposite of what’s supposed to happen under anesthesia. It’s believed that Kuleba suffered a hyperthermic reaction to inhaled anesthesia. Malignant hyperthermia is a rare genetic condition for which there’s no routine test. As a reaction to some anesthetics, it causes the body temperature to rise to as high as 110 degrees F., as a patient’s heart rate and metabolism increase. Stephanie’s board-certified plastic surgeon and anesthesiologist contacted the Malignant Hyperthermia Association of the United States. Dr. Henry Rosenberg, the association’s president, said that a Mayo Clinic expert tried to walk Schuster and the anesthesiologist through the complication; Stephanie was given dantrolene, the only known antidote for malignant hyperthermia.

She was rushed to the Delray Medical Center in Delray Beach, FL and was treated in the emergency room before being put on life support. Then her kidneys stopped worked and her blood wouldn’t clot. She had a fever of 108 degrees and was bleeding all over. She died at Delray less than 24 hours after the surgery, on Saturday morning. Dr. Tony Dardano, himself a plastic surgeon and chief of staff at Delray, told the Sun-Sentinel: “This is an unfortunate event that can occur to any anesthesiologist, any surgeon and any patient in any operating room at any time without warning.. .It’s an anesthesiologist’s and a surgeon’s nightmare and it doesn’t matter if it’s a cosmetic procedure or a surgery for reconstruction. That’s what’s so scary about it.”

Makeshift Student Memorial to Stephanie Kuleba, With a Candle That Says We Love You Forever

Because the condition is so rare, statistics about those who develop malignant hyperthermia are hard to find; it’s believed that one in 20,000 to 100,000 patients undergoing anesthesia develop the condition, and one in 10 of those will die. In fact, malignant hyperthermia is so rare that no cases of it are recorded in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) database of 1.4 million plastic surgeries performed in outpatient surgery settings.

Other statistics are more alarming, though. In our relentless pursuit of perfection, breast augmentation surgery has increased nearly 64 percent since 2000, with 348,000 of the procedures performed in 2007. And the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery says that the number of girls younger than 18 who got breast implants nearly tripled between 2002 and 2003 — from 3,872 to 11,326. And ABC News reports that doctors are seeing “more parents giving their teens the gift of new breasts or other cosmetic surgery for milestones like birthdays or graduations,” even as the ASPS’s position is that no one under the age of 18 should have unnecessary cosmetic surgery. There have also been instances when mothers and daughters go under the knife together, for plastic surgery procedures.

Stephanie Kuleba's Mother, Joanne, and Brother ChrisHundreds mourned Kuleba at the Babione Funeral Home yesterday and at a funeral Mass held at St. Jude Catholic Catholic Church in Boca this morning. Her parents, Joanne Jude Haney Kuleba and Thomas John Kuleba, have declined to comment to the media. According to family attorney Roberto Stanziale, the Kuleba family wants to find out what killed their daughter and if her death could have been prevented. Can you spell lawsuit? What about not letting your daughter, who still lived under your roof, undergo surgery for medical conditions which have no real sequela? The sad part is, Stephanie was already loved for herself, just the way she was, by the hundreds of friends who mourn her death. A poor body image and low self-esteem are what killed Stephanie Kuleba. Her motto on her MySpace page was “live your life.” Unfortunately, Stephanie won’t get to.

Read more cheery medical news, about how New Orleanians were being poisoned in FEMA trailers supplied to them after Hurricane Katrina.

Photo credit: Robert Mayer / Sun-Sentinel

Copyright ©2008 pajamadeen.com


8 Responses to “Teen Buried after Failed Breast Surgery”

  1. John on March 27th, 2008 7:23 am

    I was so sad to hear about this, not enough people fully consider the risks associate with cosmetic surgery 🙁

  2. pajamadeen on March 27th, 2008 9:31 am

    Hi John,

    Yes, it saddened me, too. This was a tragedy that _didn’t_ have to happen. 🙁

  3. Andrea on March 27th, 2008 2:11 pm

    Where did you get your facts? The question of whether she was given Dantrolene has not been answered yet, yet you state, she was. You shouldn’t be so quick to judge situations you know nothing about.

  4. pajamadeen on March 27th, 2008 3:29 pm

    Ummm, if you actually read the story, you would see where she was definitely given dantrolene (lower case, btw). You shouldn’t be so quick to judge reportage without reading it.

  5. Claire on March 27th, 2008 4:12 pm

    This news story just broke my heart. The rates of teen plastic surgery have skyrocketed in recent years, and girls are feeling more and more pressures to look “perfect.”

    Celebrity media and shows like Dr. 90210 and Extreme Makeover send the dangerous message that cosmetic surgery is a quick fix and magic cure-all for body image and self-esteem issues. Tragic cases like this (and the recent plastic surgery-related death of Kanye West’s mother) will hopefully draw attention to the fact that cosmetic surgery is real surgery with real risks. My heart goes out to this young woman’s family and friends.

  6. pajamadeen on March 27th, 2008 4:54 pm

    Hi Claire,

    Yes, it was a very, very sad story. I feel so sorry for Stephanie, and the pressure she and her friends apparently feel/felt to be “perfect.”

    You know, you are right. I hadn’t thought of the influence of pop culture shows like “Extreme Makeover” and the message they’re sending. If you want to write a story for us about the TV influence of 90210 and Extreme Makeover, I’d be interested in seeing it. You write well. 🙂

    Thanks for the comment!


  7. tracy on March 31st, 2008 8:41 am

    This is a sad story. She did indeed have surgery to fix what she thought was a problem, however, it wasn’t poor self esteem or bad body image that killed her. It was the surgery. You can argue that she shouldn’t have done it, but the surgery is what killed her.

  8. pajamadeen on March 31st, 2008 10:01 am

    I still say that the underlying _reason_ for having the surgery and making this fatal decision was because…she wanted to be more “perfect” – peer pressure? Poor self-image as well. One-third of women have asymmetrical breasts. If she would have waited until she was a little older, she might not have made that fatal decision. I think teens are just too young to have surgery. They think they’re immortal, and they want to be “like everyone else.” I feel very sorry for Stephanie.