GRAPHIC: Mum unrecognisable after surgery disaster
WARNING: Graphic content
Whenever Carol Bryan looks in the mirror, she sees a stranger staring back.
The former model can no longer recognise herself after a botched filler treatment caused her face to balloon and ultimately left her permanently blind in one eye, The Sun reports.
Carol, then 47, had dreamt of making her face look plumper and younger when she had dermal filler injected into her forehead - but instead, she was left contemplating suicide.
Within months, her features had distorted and swollen beyond recognition, baffling doctors and leaving her so devastated by her looks she became a virtual recluse.
Now 11 years on, Carol remains extremely self-conscious.
She is also blind in one eye after a surgical procedure to try to correct the damage tragically resulted in vision loss.
'I'LL NEVER LOOK THE WAY I DID'
"I'm extremely self-conscious every waking minute," the devastated mum told The Sun.
"It's been hard to accept that I will never look as I did.
"It's changed how I look at life. Your face is your calling card, it's what makes you able to go out and function in the world, and when you don't have your face anymore it's hard to know how you are."
It's not just the botched filler treatments that can cause blindness - surgery to repair facial damage also poses a huge risk.
Carol, 58, who had been using Botox injections from her late 30s to smooth out fine lines on her face and maintain her youthful looks, was 47 when she tried filler for the first time in 2009.
"There's nothing wrong with trying to look as good as you can for as long as possible - it's a privilege our parents didn't have - if you do it the right way in the right hands," she said.
Yet what she didn't realise was that two different types of filler, including one made from silicone, had been combined in the same syringe and injected into her forehead and cheeks.
'IT WAS A LIVING NIGHTMARE'
"What I know now is that permanent filler like silicone is really not supposed to be used as facial filler, especially in areas that they are not indicated for," she said.
"In my case it basically caused my face to morph and devolve."
Despite panicked appointments with doctors, who couldn't work out what was wrong and mistakenly tried to dissolve the permanent filler, Carol's face continued to "grow outwards".
"It was like living in a nightmare," recalled the mum, who lives on America's west coast.
"I couldn't bear people, especially my family, to see what had happened to me".
Hidden away in her own home, Carol contemplated taking her own life. She allowed only her 17-year-old daughter to see her and, even then, insisted on covering her face with a hat and sunglasses.
'THE DOCTOR CRIED WHEN HE SAW ME'
Eventually, the desperate mum sought help from a craniofacial expert, who wept when he saw her.
But when the doctor attempted complex surgery in 2013 to try to lift her vastly over-inflated forehead up and back from her eye area, Carol found herself blind in her right eye.
'I CAN'T IMAGINE ANYONE WANTING TO BE WITH ME'
"My optic nerve had been irreparably damaged," Carol explained.
"It had already been severely compromised, and I was probably going to lose the sight at some point anyway, but it was horrifying. I was in shock, both my daughter and I were scared to death."
Today Carol, who has undergone multiple surgeries including skin grafts, a partial facial transplant and a 17-hour op, has lost any hope of having a romantic relationship.
"I can't even imagine anyone having the desire of any sort to want to be with me in that way," she said.
Yet she's also able to count her blessings.
The mum, who has set up the American charity Saving Face Initiative to campaign for the safe practice of cosmetic medicine, is determined to stop other women going through the same ordeal.
"Rogue practitioners and lack of awareness is putting people in very dangerous places and changing lives forever. People need to understand the risks," she said.
In Australia, it is estimated people spend about $1 billion on up to 500,000 separate cosmetic procedures each year and receive more treatments per capita than Americans.
The Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery (ACCS) predicts improved access to procedures and downward pressure on prices will make certain procedures even more ubiquitous and warns safety must be the priority.
ACCS medical dean Dr Ronald Feiner said cosmetic injectables should never be trivialised.
"Australians should be reminded that Botox and dermal filler procedures are medical treatments, not beauty treatments, and require a medical consultation by a doctor," Dr Feiner told news.com.au
"Anyone considering cosmetic injectables needs to make sure their practitioner is experienced and has adequate procedures in case of an emergency. Patients need to be aware that complications such as tissue death (necrosis) and blindness can and do occur, so you want to be in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing."
Injections of Botox - the most popular aesthetic procedure since the late 1990s - were up 16 per cent last year from the year before, according to global figures.
Fillers were up 12 per cent over the same time frame. Both procedures require regular top-ups.
About 100 people worldwide have been left blind in one or both eyes by dermal fillers, according to a 2015 report at the World Congress of Dermatology. Two-thirds suffered unilateral vision loss.
In one of the few documented cases of sight being saved, a 30-year-old woman in Indonesia suffered a life-threatening type of stroke caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain after having filler injected in her nose.
In Britain alone, there are understood to be around 35 documented cases of people being blinded by dodgy filler procedures.
FILLER LODGED IN EYEBALL
Meiska Mamajeski, from Leeds in the UK, was left permanently blind in one eye after deciding to try out a newly developed facial filler to smooth out her facial lines and wrinkles.
"Almost immediately, I saw this yellow flashing ball in my left eye," the 57-year-old recalls.
"The pain in my temple was excruciating. I yelled to the doctor to stop. I was sweating, flailing in the chair. Then the light faded from my eye and everything went black."
Meiska later learned the filler had been injected not into the skin around her eye but into the eyeball itself, where it had shattered the veins bringing blood to her retina.
The substance then lodged at the back of her eyeball, permanently cutting off the blood supply and causing instant, irreversible blindness in her left eye.
Australian Mikayla Stutchbery, 24, was also nearly blinded when filler was wrongly injected into her arteries, causing her lips to burst and leading her to swallow the solution.
"You see horror stories on TV but (assume) that would never happen to you until it actually does," Ms Stutchbery said.
"It was extremely painful. And then there was a part where I got blisters and they burst, and I started swallowing the filler and passed out."
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission