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  • THE Belo Medical Group has hired lawyer Raymond Fortun to fend off a P20-million suit by a US-based nurse who has accused its founder, Vicky Belo, and a cos­metic surgeon of carrying out a botched facial operation, Stan­dard Today reports. The cosmetic dermatology and plastic surgery clinic, whose clientele include the rich and fa­mous, said it had not yet received a copy of the complaint filed by Leila Palaganas before the Makati City Prosecutors Office. In a text message to Standard Today, the clinic’s public relations manager, Leah Salterio, said they would still have to confer with Fortun and review Palaga­nas’ complaint before they could comment on the suit. Palaganas, 50, filed charges of reckless imprudence resulting in serious physical injuries against Belo, the Belo Group’s medical director, and one of Belo’s cos­metic surgeons, Jennifer Sison. The complainant said she con­tinued to suffer from “debilitating emotional stress” vicky-belobecause of the injuries she sustained after under­going the Thermage procedure performed by Sison at the Belo Group clinic in Medical Plaza, Makati, on July 8, 2008. Thermage is a non-surgi­cal procedure that removes and smoothes out facial wrinkles with the use of radio-frequency tech­nology called “ThermaCool.”

    ThermaCool “has been clinically proven to tighten and gently lift skin to smooth out wrinkles and define facial contours.” Palaganas said she went to the Belo clinic on July 5, 2008, for consultation, and was referred to Sison, whom she claimed con­vinced her to have a Thermage operation on her face. Sison, she said, assured her that it was safe and effective and that she was competent to do the procedure. “But right after the procedure, I was so horrified to see my face swollen and with bruises and blisters, especially on the right side,” Pala­ganas said. Sison instructed her to apply a compress and laser cream so her face would return to normal.

    Palaganas returned to the clinic af­ter three days and underwent lymphatic drainage and light therapy to reduce the swelling. When she returned to the United States on July 21, Palaganas said, her facial con­dition had worsened and her face had got deformed, with permanent ugly scars and dark marks.

    She said she e-mailed Sison and Belo immediately, but did not get any reply. “I am in shock and continue to suffer from debilitating emotional stress because of the irreversible facial injury, which I will endure for the rest of my life. From being a very happy and successful nurse, who has been living and working in the US for 30 years, I now live in constant pain, dread­ing to wake up in the morning because of my permanently damaged and deformed face,” Palaganas said in her three-page complaint. He added that she only recently discov­ered that Sison was not a certified Ther­mage practitioner and that Belo “reckless­ly” allowed her to perform the procedure.

    The lawsuit against Belo’s company is reminiscent of a damage suit filed by a 34- year-old Filipino-American businessman who accused celebrity cosmetic surgeons Manny and Pie Calayan of carrying out a failed penis enlargement operation. The Makati City Prosecutors Office dropped the complaint, ruling that there was no evidence that the Calayans had damaged the man’s penis.

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