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Sydney mum's horror after lip fillers go badly wrong

When Sydney mum Kristine McCarthy went to her local beauty clinic for some lip fillers, she had no real idea of the risks she was exposing herself to.

By choosing a clinic, rather than a stock-standard beautician's salon, the Sydney mum of three thought she was making a sensible choice, so she was stunned when her treatment went horribly wrong in a matter of seconds.

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Kristine McCarthy was left with severe swelling and bruising after her artery was pierced. Source: Supplied
Kristine McCarthy was left with severe swelling and bruising after her artery was pierced. Source: Supplied

Now, she wants to warn others about the dangers involved in what many consider a run-of-the-mill procedure.

"I never dreamed that it would end like this," Kristine, 43, told Be.

"It’s so common to get your lips done. I work in retail and most of the women who come into the store, most of the girls who work near us, have had it done."

Kristine just prior to having the injection. Source: Supplied
Kristine just prior to having the injection. Source: Supplied

Kristine said she was nervous ahead of the procedure, but only because there was a needle involved.

"I was terrified! I was excited to get them done but I was really nervous," she said.

"It’s needles into your lips, just the thought of it makes you nervous, but obviously I never thought this would happen."

Shortly after the nurse at the clinic had inserted the needle, Kristine realised from her reaction that something wasn't right.

"She knew straight away that something had gone wrong," Kristine said. "She was like, ‘Oh my gosh’ and just grabbed my lip with her thumb and forefinger."

At first, there was only a bit of minor swelling and bruising. Source: Supplied
At first, there was only a bit of minor swelling and bruising. Source: Supplied

The nurse had accidentally punctured the main artery in Kristine's lip and was desperately attempting to halt the flow of blood as her lips rapidly began to swell.

"She either pierced or nicked my main artery in my top lip," Kristine explained. "Your lips are very vascular – I didn’t know any of this. I hadn’t done my research."

Kristine asked the nurse what would happen and was told she would simply have a bruise.

"She said ‘It’s all right, you’re just going to bruise’," Kristine said.

"I thought ‘Oh that’s all right, I’ve seen girls who have a bit of bruising’. And then she gave me some ice to hold against my lip. and said ‘Here, I’ll show you in the mirror’.

But the swelling increased swiftly. Source: Supplied.
But the swelling increased swiftly. Source: Supplied.

"It was a little bit swollen and a bit blue straight away. Nothing major but obviously not what I expected."

After that, Kristine headed home. But her lip continued to swell and the bruising got much worse.

"I went home and the proceeding hours it just got worse and worse," she said.

"It was so bad I thought my lip was going to burst open. It was blue and red, and huge and shiny and it looked like it was going to burst."

By that evening, Kristine was starting to get seriously worried. Source: Supplied
By that evening, Kristine was starting to get seriously worried. Source: Supplied

Kristine returned to the clinic, only to learn that the nurse she'd seen was supposed to have spoken with a doctor over Skype prior to conducting the treatment.

"Before the procedure, she was meant to Skype a doctor to introduce me and to say what was happening," Kristine said. "I was completely naive and didn’t do my research so I had no idea about that."

RELATED: Surgeon's warning about treatment with needles

Unfortunately, the nurse forgot to speak to a doctor at all before getting the needle out.

"That didn’t happen until after the procedure – after it had finished she Skyped the doctor," Kristine said.

By this point, Kristine was seriously concerned her lip would swell so much it would burst. Source: Supplied
By this point, Kristine was seriously concerned her lip would swell so much it would burst. Source: Supplied

"He said she’d hit probably the main artery in my lip and that it would go down. They tested my lip by pushing on the bruise, which was awful.

"When they pierce the artery, what can happen is the filler can block the hole and stop the blood flow. Then your lip can get what’s called necrosis, where it just dies due to lack of blood."

As soon as Kristine heard she could lose her lip altogether, she realised she'd opened herself up to horrific consequences.

"If you get necrosis, where the artery gets blocked and your lips basically die, you have to have plastic surgery to recreate your mouth," Kristine explained.

Kristine couldn't believe her 'simple' procedure had gone so badly. Source: Supplied
Kristine couldn't believe her 'simple' procedure had gone so badly. Source: Supplied

Thankfully, Kristine was given the all-clear for necrosis as the filler hadn't blocked her artery – and just to make sure, she went to another doctor for a second opinion.

"Where I went they used a needle, and I’ve since been to a doctor to get a second opinion to make absolutely sure I would be ok," Kristine told Be.

"He told me he always uses an angled cannula to do this because a cannula doesn’t pierce the veins. So if you're going to get lip fillers, it could be worth asking whether they use a cannula or a needle."

As the swelling started to go down over the following days, the bruising looked much worse. Source: Supplied
As the swelling started to go down over the following days, the bruising looked much worse. Source: Supplied

Now, Kristine's just glad she came out relatively intact and didn't lose her lips.

"My lips are now a bit swollen but they’re nothing like they were. And my upper lip is badly bruised. It’s been four days now and it will probably take a week or more to heal," Kristine said.

"I feel like we’re all so vain in today's society, where we're all so focused on our looks. This has just taught me, just be happy with how you are. So I’ve actually been walking around with the bruise like ‘yep, this is me.'

"We’re all so superficial. I won’t ever do it again. It’s just not worth it. When I think about what could have been, I just thank my lucky stars."

Kristine is now just relieved her outcome wasn't worse. Source: Supplied
Kristine is now just relieved her outcome wasn't worse. Source: Supplied

And she has some words of advice for anyone else considering getting lip fillers.

"Anything cosmetic or anything like that, things can go wrong," she said.

"I would only go to a doctor – I wouldn’t go to a nurse who Skypes over an iPad.

"Otherwise you go in there thinking you’re doing something to make yourself look better and you come out looking worse."

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