Cosmetic surgery: When 'beauty' costs a leg and arm

When you meet 32-year-old Liza you can’t help but notice the confidence and sparkle about her. She says for most of her life she didn’t feel beautiful and this came with low self esteem. When chance presented itself she opted for cosmetic surgery to enhance her ‘beauty.’
A person can get more than one procedure though it's advisable to take some time apart in between the surgeries. (Net)
A person can get more than one procedure though it's advisable to take some time apart in between the surgeries. (Net)

When you meet 32-year-old Liza you can’t help but notice the confidence and sparkle about her. She says for most of her life she didn’t feel beautiful and this came with low self esteem. When chance presented itself she opted for cosmetic surgery to enhance her ‘beauty.’ In 2012, Liza had a breast reduction surgical procedure at King Faisal Hospital, and she says her life has never been the same.

Cosmetic surgery tales are usually about the rich and famous celebrities. It is an expensive venture that many say costs an arm and leg, and yet it comes with serious risks too. Back home many Rwandans like Liza have joined the bandwagon of beauty enhancement through cosmetic surgery.  Indeed, the high demand is what led to introduction of cosmetic surgery services in Rwanda.


Liza was tipped about a Rwandan doctor who had introduced the services locally.


“I got the doctor’s contacts through a friend and called him up and set an appointment. A couple of days later, I had the surgery and the procedure wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined.  I was discharged after three days and it took me a little over two weeks to get back to my usual routine. Now, I feel more beautiful and appreciate myself even more. I am so confident about my body and I think that if one is not happy with the way they look, they should go for it,” she says.


Liza adds that she understands people have mixed feelings about cosmetic surgery, but they should not be scared, especially if they are sure of what they want. If one is going to do anything at all, they should do it with a positive mind, it helps a lot.

Previously, Rwandans in need of cosmetic surgery had to travel abroad like to the US, the UK, Belgium, India and South Africa to get the services. However, people can now get the services in the country at King Faisal Hospital.Dr Charles Furaha, a plastic surgeon at King Faisal Hospital, says he noticed the demand for cosmetic surgery, and decided to introduce the services. The South African trained plastic surgeon started practicing in 2011.

Dr Furaha says that although he was mainly dealing with reconstructive surgery; he eventually decided to introduce cosmetic surgery because of the demand locally.

“Reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries are two different procedures but all are under the specialty of plastic surgery.  With reconstructive it’s when one is operated on to fix an abnormality or a deformity from let’s say an accident or cancer, or one being born with it. But when its normal and one only wants to make it better like wanting to shape a tummy or nose, then its cosmetic surgery,”  Dr Furaha says.

What entails cosmetic surgery?

Dr Furaha says that if any procedure in cosmetic surgery is to be done and surgeries such as abdominoplasty (tummy surgery), breast augmentation and reduction, hips and bottom implants will be offered.

Procedures such as liposuction can be done; it involves removal of fat from the body in an attempt to change its shape.

“For reduction of some body parts, we use the process of liposuction where we suck fat from the body using small incisions and special tubes that we get in the body to suck the fat, and all this is done when the patient is anaesthetized,” Dr Furaha explains.

He says that plastic surgery is not dangerous because it’s something done after various prerequisites have been met before any procedure is done. The patient is well examined to check if they are eligible and without any medical complications because people with illnesses like heart problems can’t receive such surgeries.

“Cosmetic surgery is not something one does in a rush so the complications are minimal. However, it’s something a recipient needs to go for after deciding on what they really want,” he advises.

“The surgery is safe because we wouldn’t be providing it if it wasn’t,” he adds.

Dr Furaha, however, is quick to add that as it is with any surgical complications, some cases could actually go wrong.

“Sometimes one could have a pocket of blood as a complication after the surgery, so this can require the doctors to go back and remove it, other patients may get infections, but these complications are not seen that often,” he says.

The doctor says that pain after the surgery is only felt in the first weeks but if one is taking painkillers, sometimes they don’t feel it at all, and he advises anyone who has undergone surgery  to wait for two weeks at least before going back to a daily routine.

“A person can get more than one procedure though it’s advisable to take some time apart in between the surgeries, one can wait for a couple of months. Age on the other hand shouldn’t be a hindrance unless if someone is above seventy, the cost of most of these surgical procedures is about Rwf2m and above,” he says. However, according to, national average cost of breast implant procedures has continued to go down each year since 2010. For example, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the average surgeon’s fees for breast augmentation in 2011 were $3,694 (roughly Rwf3m) for silicone breast implants. Other procedures, depending on what you want, go from anything between $400 to over $10,000.

Is it worth the risk?

Desire Asiimwe, a student at Kigali Independent University (ULK), thinks that cosmetic surgery is worth the risk but adds she would not go for one herself.

“No matter how much I would love to see myself more attractive, I don’t think I can get the courage to take my body to be cut open to change something,” she adds.

For Lillian Umwali, a cashier at UAE Exchange, having cosmetic surgery is a waste of money. She says, “Personally, I think going for cosmetic surgery is not only a waste of money but life as well. I see it as an exposure to cancer and in this case chances are very high.

“There is nothing like enhancing beauty to me because I only see a lot of risks at the end of it all. I am very much surprised that the services are available in Rwanda.”

For Mutesi, looking beautiful and attractive is what many women dream.  “Yes, if it’s what plastic surgery can give me then I would definitely go for it,” says Molly Mutesi.

“Some of us were not born endowed with wonderful curves and cute faces so if I have a surgeon experienced enough to bless me with this kind of beauty, why not give it a try?” she says. 

Massage therapist, Pie Kombe, doesn’t see the harm in a person wanting to look attractive, that’s why he doesn’t judge people who go for it.

He, however, thinks that women are the ones who benefit most from it because he wonders what a man would actually want surgery for.

“What would I go wanting surgery for? However, for women who want it, I’m actually in support of them because who wouldn’t want to look beautiful?” he asks.

What does research say?

According to research done by Forbes Magazine in 2007, while TV shows like ABC’s Extreme Makeover and NBC’s Bionic Woman paint a rosy picture, plastic and cosmetic surgeries are not without risks.

It shows that temporary numbness or loss of feeling at the site of the incision is fairly common in face-lifts and tummy tucks, though it’s rarely permanent.

Numbness after breast surgeries of any type is the most common. Loss of sensation in the nipple in particular occurs anywhere from 10 per cent to 70 per cent of the time, says Dr. Nahai, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), as quoted in the research. What’s worst is when breast reductions, where the nipple and areola are totally removed and reattached as skin grafts.

Some tissue death from surgical manipulation, called necrosis, is inevitable after any procedure, though risks increase dramatically if one is a smoker. That’s because smoking affects blood supply to the tissues. By definition, the surgeon is cutting into those tissues, and if the blood supply is already compromised, necrosis is more likely to occur.

After any surgery, there is the possibility of excessive bleeding. Hematoma, a collection of blood, occurs more in men than in women because beard follicles in the face mean there are more capillaries–and therefore an increased blood supply in that area.

The rarest and most feared of side effects is, of course, death. Toxic levels of anesthetics have been known to cause respiratory failure in some patients. In some rare instances, high levels of topical lidocaine have led to death. In others, imitation Botox, or other imitation fillers not approved by the FDA, have left patients in coma for up to several years, and eventually dead.


Is cosmetic surgery worth it?


As kids, we were taught that it is important to accept the way you were created and embrace our natural look. However, with the growing influence, most especially from celebrities who never miss a chance to promote plastic surgery, it has become a normal thing for many people now. Personally, I would only consider having plastic surgery if something happened to my body accidentally that changed its natural look or originality. In that case, I would definitely give it a thought.

Maureen Musiimenta, business student



I think the most important thing is personal acceptance and contentment. People who prefer surgery would be happier with their bodies if they could just exercise personal acceptance first, and embrace the way they were born. I believe nothing beats the joy of feeling or looking good, but personally, I wouldn’t go for surgery regardless of the issue.

Sheilla Batamuriza, university graduate



I don’t believe in artificial beauty, or anything involving changing who I am naturally. I wouldn’t feel comfortable knowing in my mind that something I have on my body isn’t mine, or I wasn’t born that way. I think the problem is basically self-acceptance. Unless a person has had an accident, or was born with definite impairment that can be fixed through plastic surgery; that is logical. Otherwise it’s a shortcut to beauty - which is not realistic.

Maureen Mutoni, usher



Considering plastic surgery is basically ignoring the side-effects of such complicated operations. What if something goes wrong and you lose even the little you had? That would be a disaster, and I believe it would hurt more than before. The only option where plastic surgery is reasonable is when a person has a certain deformity that was caused by an accident or something related. Staying natural is a rich thing in life.

Doreen Atuheire, entrepreneur

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