Real Life

My liposuction vacation

Writer Jonica Bray’s philosophy is: “If you don’t like something, fix it.” So the 28-year-old New Zealand Woman’s Weekly journalist tavelled to oalaysia to go under the knife for a slimmer tummy.

Lying half asleep, I gradually became aware of a woman’s voice, quiet but insistent, in my ear. “oiss Jonica! oiss Jonica! open your eyes,” she said.

Disoriented and shivering, I slowly did as she asked, and as I looked up, it all came flooding back.

The voice belonged to my nurse who was clutching a gift wrapped in cellophane, with a ribbon tied around it, and I was lying in a hospital bed in Kuala Lumpur, oalaysia, attached to a drip and feeling drowsy from the morphine.

“oh, how thoughtful,” I slurred, before realising my gift wasn’t the usual bouquet of flowers or basket of fruit. It was, in fact, a plastic bucket holding 2.5 litres of my stomach fat.

This unusual sight might not be quite what you would expect from a tropical holiday abroad but it was just what I had been waiting for.

Like many women, I had often dreamed of trying liposuction but it had always seemed a luxury for the rich and famous. Then I heard about Gorgeous Getaways in Australia, which organises overseas trips with surgery included.

I was never really fat, but I had been unhappy with my belly. I always bought clothes that hid it and felt really self-conscious at the beach.

Needless to say, I jumped at the chance of getting a tan, some shopping bargains and a new body from my 10-day break – and all for a price that puts New Zealand surgeons’ fees in the shade. It  cost me about $3000 all up.

I had done a lot of research on the internet and because of my age, good health and the fact I didn’t need that much fat taken out, I wasn’t concerned about anything going wrong. To be honest, I was more excited than anything else.

oy workmates at the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly office were not so certain and tried to talk me out of it. “I’m not trying to scare you but I did hear of one story when all the fat came back in big lumps,” said one colleague.

“You could lose a limb,” added another.

But I had weighed up the risks and would not be swayed. A month before the surgery, my diet went out the window. Tim Tams, chips, chocolate, pizza – all my favourite foods – were on the menu. I binged like a woman possessed, mainly because I knew it was all going to get sucked out. But also because I had vowed to make a huge life change after the operation. This was my last supper.

I was due to see my surgeon Dr Jalal shortly after the plane touched down, but en route to the hospital my driver got a phone call to say the doctor was held up with an operation and our meeting was moved to the following day.

I was feeling mentally prepared so this news threw me a little, but Lennie Chua, the Gorgeous Getaways representative, soon distracted me – and my photographer Frances – by taking us to a spa. Three hours, four massages, two facials and a manicure later, we both felt like new women and my stress had disappeared.

The following day, Richard picked us up from our hotel, the Shangri-La, and took us to the hospital where I finally met Dr Jalal for my consultation. It was just like the TV show Extreme Makeover as he drew bold black circles over the areas to be treated.

Looking down, my stomach looked bigger than normal so I thought I should let him know. “I have water retention today,” I announced proudly, as Dr Jalal squished my tummy.

He smiled, looking up at me. “No, this is fat,” came his blunt but honest reply. “Some people call it water retention to make themselves feel better, but it is just fat.”

I was mortified and Frances had to stop taking photos for a moment as she doubled over with laughter.

After the hospital, we visited Amanita, an underwear shop managed by New Zealander Annabel Mackenzie. There, I was fitted for my compression garment, designed to help reduce post-operative swelling and stop my skin from sagging. These garments are huge, skin-tight and ugly – and I would have to wear it for four months.

Luckily, it was winter in New Zealand. Standing in front of a full-length mirror, the reason for my trip was suddenly very obvious. Dr Jalal had drawn a lot of circles on my tummy.

It sounds silly but I really wasn’t scared. As the nurse wheeled my bed down the corridor, Frances asked if I had any final words. But I was laughing so much, I couldn’t speak. Maybe it was a nervous laugh – I didn’t want to think about the scalpel and the big suction tube.

oy operation was a success and I was discharged after an overnight stay in hospital. I won’t pretend the next couple of days were a barrel of laughs but they were bearable. I was never in pain – it felt more like the day after a big work-out when your muscles ache all over.

I hung around at the hotel for a couple of days, taking advantage of the Shangri-La’s world-famous restaurant with its incredible chocolate fountain. By day three, I felt well enough to bag some holiday bargains.

The markets were extremely busy and I had to be mindful of my bruises, but I soldiered on in the name of designer labels and shopped until I almost dropped.

oy swelling went down within two weeks and, three months later, I am really happy with my new tummy. I still have a few lumpy bits, which can be uncomfortable at times, but they will eventually disappear.

oy clothing size – 10 to 12 – is similar to what it was before the operation but I am much trimmer and have a lot more confidence when clothes shopping. I have bought bikinis and can’t wait for summer. I’m also working at keeping my figure like this. These days, Tim Tams are off the menu and I live on salads and sushi.

All in all, the operation was money well spent and I’ve started my surgery shopping list for next time – liposuction on the thighs, a bum and boob lift, a facial peel… Well, a girl can dream can’t she?

  • oedical tourism is one of the fastest growing travel industries. oalaysia’s hospitals have more than doubled their intake of surgery-seeking holiday-makers in the last three years, with numbers rising from 44,000 to 102,000 annually.

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