Did Florida Woman's New Year's Resolution Costs Her Life?

Cosmetic surgery gone wrong has family wondering what happened.

December 30, 2010, 2:26 PM

Jan. 3, 2011— -- Lidvian Zelaya's New Year's resolution was to look and feel better about herself in 2011.

But on Dec. 27, the 35-year-old from Coral Gables, Fla., died just a few hours into her procedure for abdominal liposuction and buttock injections, which she was undergoing at a private cosmetic surgery clinic in south Florida.

Spencer Aronfeld, the attorney representing the Zelaya family, said the family was told by employees at the Strax Rejuvenation Clinic, a private center in Ft. Lauderdale, that Lidvian would be able to go home shortly after the procedure.

Zelaya, a U.S. resident from Nicaragua, underwent breast augmentation at the same clinic a few years ago with no complications.

"She had some degree of confidence in the facility," said Aronfeld.

But three hours into the procedure, clinic assistants told Zelaya's husband that something had gone wrong. Zelaya was rushed to Florida Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

"We don't know precisely what went wrong," said Aronfeld, who has handled cosmetic procedure malpractice cases for more than two decades.

"Something didn't go appropriately in this case. Right now I'm in investigative mode rather than accusatory mode," he said.

"Right now I'm bound by federal privacy laws," said Phillip Feanney, general counsel who represents Strax Rejuvenation.

According to Feanney, Strax Rejuvenation is unable to confirm Zelaya was a patient at the Fort Lauderdale clinic. The clinic is awaiting routine medical error reports, he said.

Cosmetic surgery is common among many people who live in south Florida. Private plastic surgery clinics compete with flashy advertisements and special promotions aimed at south Florida residents.

According to the family, Zelaya was in perfect medical condition, and the clinic cleared her through a pre-operative screening. Now, the family is urging anyone considering cosmetic surgery to undergo a second, pre-surgical health evaluation by an independent primary care physician.

"I think it's an inherent conflict of interest if you are getting screened by the surgeon who wants to do the procedure," said Aronfeld.

Aronfeld said he is looking into the clinic's history and Gordon's background.

According to public records, Dr. Roger L. Gordon, Zelaya's consulting plastic surgeon at Strax Rejuvenation Clinic who allegedly performed the procedure, has had 20 lawsuits filed against him since 2004.

Public records filed by the Maryland Board of Physicians show that he was put on probation, but the reason was not disclosed. In Florida, Gordon had his staff privileges terminated from the Florida Medical Center, however public records do not indicate why .

"We are not in the role of accusing, we're in the process of investigating," Aronfeld said.

The family said they are awaiting medical records and autopsy results before deciding to file a lawsuit.

"At this time we have a lot of questions. We want to know who screened her, how she was screened, and what happened," said Aronfeld.

ABC News' Lauren Pearle contributed to this report.

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