In late 2004, just before the December holidays, Eric and Bonnie Kaplan decided to do something extra to look good during party season: get Botox treatments from a friend who ran a clinic.
Instead of using Botox, their friend was mixing his own batch with raw grade botulinum toxin type A, one of the most deadly toxins in existence. The mix was off, and the physical effects were almost immediate and dangerous.
"When I got to the ER. … I couldn't swallow," Eric said. "Then, I couldn't speak. Then, my teeth froze like I had lockjaw. Eventually I became totally paralyzed."
The dose of toxin the Kaplans received stopped their lungs from working on their own. The couple were in the hospital for more than three months. When ABC's Chris Cuomo first met them, Eric was eating and breathing through a tube. Bonnie could communicate only by writing on a pad.
A Cautionary Tale for Consumers
The couple lived to tell their tale in a new book, "Dying to Be Young: From Botox to Botulism."
Eric said the terrifying experience was like living a Stephen King novel.
"I mean literally, I was trapped inside my body. I mean imagine not being able to open your eyes, not being able to talk, not being able to communicate, and then having to learn to do these things again," he said.
Bonnie said it took her more than a year and a half to fully recover. Even now, she still doesn't feel 100 percent.
"As a result of being in a hospital, I broke three vertebrae in my back. So I have major back issues all the time," she said. "I lost 50 percent of my hearing from having to wear hearing aids all the time."
The couple hope that taking their tale of pain and suffering public will educate consumers about how vital it is to check up on a doctor's credentials before getting cosmetic surgery.
"Listen, who's a better example than us?," Eric said. "One day I was on top of the world. The next minute, the world was on top of me."