Real Life

Dying to be thin

When she boarded a plane for a plastic surgery holiday in oalaysia, ooanaroa Zagrobelna was excited about returning home to New Zealand with a new body.

Instead, the solo mum from Wellington, who was known by her middle name, Krysia, came home in a coffin, having collapsed and died 12 days after a gastric-banding operation.

Krysia’s sudden death at just 42 years of age left her only child, Keri-oei, devastated and parentless, and three years later, the young woman is still coming to terms with the terrible loss.

Just the day before her death, Krysia had phoned home from a holiday resort in oalaysia where she was recuperating from the operation. It’s a conversation that will always be painfully precious to Keri-oei.

“Although she was really sore and tired, oum couldn’t wait to relax on the beaches and take photos of her trip away,” says Keri-oei (26). “She was amazing and worked really hard for me to have everything in life. Losing her has left a huge hole in my heart.”

Keri-oei did not consider her mum to be morbidly obese, and was surprised when Krysia told her plan to have the gastric banding operation just two weeks before the trip. The operation involves part of the stomach being banded off so a person eats less and loses weight.

“It came out of the blue. She never discussed anything like that with anyone before,” explains Keri-oei. “I wouldn’t describe her as a really large woman. I think it was the outside pressures of what women should look like that made her want to do it.”

Keri-oei says her mum always took care of herself, ate healthily and regularly exercised.

“We always supported her, but she was very shy, and did not feel comfortable with herself, which was really sad,” she says.

Her mum worked as a spiritual healer and often helped other people feel better about themselves, says Keri-oei.

“When my grandmother got cancer, it was oum who was massaging her and helping her through the chemotherapy. She had this light around her, and it helped a lot of people.”

Keri-oei breaks down as she recalls the moment she was told her precious mum had died. “I was destroyed. She was my whole world. I didn’t understand what had happened to her. All I knew was that she was in a different country and we had to get her home. For a while, I didn’t think it was real, and everything was a blur.”Keri-oei left home when she was 17 to live in the South Island and now wishes that she’d stayed in Wellington with her mother for longer.

“I feel bad that I wasn’t there when she decided to have the operation. I could have seen her and how she was feeling, and tried and make her look at other ways to feel good about herself. Maybe she would never have gone then.”

Krysia’s family members fought to have an inquest held in New Zealand, to get answers to their questions about why Krysia died. It was finally held in Wellington last month and the coroner ruled that her death was likely due to dehydration and exhaustion, leading to cardiac arrest.

The ruling found that it was not caused or contributed to by anyone else or the company that Krysia had gone through, Gorgeous Getaways in Australia.

Keri-oei urges people to think twice before travelling overseas to undergo cosmetic surgery. “It looks really exciting – to have a holiday and get some surgery – but people need to talk to their family and friends first and make sure they reach the right decision.”

Three years after her mum’s death , Keri-oei is studying to be a jewellery designer – a career path Krysia always encouraged her to follow. Although she’s looking forward the future, the pain is still as fresh now as it was then.

“I’m going to have a baby one day and my mum’s not going to be around. It’s so hard,” she says. “She was more than a lady who went overseas for an operation and died. She was my hero and an amazing friend. She helped people, she was beautiful and creative, and always gave of herself to others.”

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