Washington woman recovering from coma after 'dental tourism' trip to Costa Rica
ASHFORD, Wash. - When Michelle Mackey began pricing out dental surgery, the cost was shocking. That led her to a move becoming more and more popular by the year—dental tourism.
She expected to save roughly $12,000, even after buying the plane tickets. Instead, she ended up in medical debt after a flurry of medical issues popped up while in the operating room.
Mackey, now back in the United States, told FOX 13 News that she was in cardiac arrest for roughly 30 minutes, suffered several strokes and wound up intubated. Along the way, she needed a skin graft and a lot of medicine after her kidneys began to fail.
The plan was a fun trip to Costa Rica, and a dental procedure that was too expensive in the States.
"Costa Rica sounded fun," said Mackey, a few minutes before walking into her doctor’s office for a checkup. "I was wrong, it’s not quite the fun I was trying to get into."
Mackey said the original idea to fly to Costa Rica was scary at first, but she did research and felt comfortable.
"I’d say do your research, but I did mine. I guess you can never do enough of it," said Mackey.
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Mackey has obtained a lawyer. She has concerns about how her care was handled while at the dental facility. Meanwhile, she’s thankful for where she is today. In January, it was unclear whether she’d make it back home.
She still has blurry vision and depth perception problems. Mackey isn’t driving, and she can’t run the Rise and Grind coffee stand in Ashford that she owns, either. However, given the laundry list of issues that popped up, she’s amazed she’s alive.
"Adjusting to the vision is the biggest thing, getting some movement back in my hand is second," she explained. "If it wasn’t for that, my recovery has been really quick."
Over at Mackey’s coffee stand, her niece is taking orders—she along with a handful of friends and employees have stepped up to cover the extra hours during Mackey’s extended absence.
"The first few days were hard," said Haley Olson. "People kept asking me questions. That was hard, so my Mom sat with me through the day during my shift to help answer questions."
According to Olson, the community has really stepped up. Customers have donated in a separate tip jar for Mackey’s recovery fund. Mackey’s sister told FOX 13 that fundraisers have raised thousands of dollars throughout the Eatonville, Ashford and Chehalis areas—all places where the family has lived.
Shana Mackey, along with Michelle’s boyfriend, spent days in Costa Rica trying to figure out the best way to handle the emergency as it unfolded in January. Credit cards were maxed out, and the family did what they could to raise funds for a life flight that allowed Mackey to return to the states for treatment in Florida.
In mid-February, Mackey returned home. Now she’s hopeful that she can make a full recovery.
"It was a lot harder on my family than on me," said Mackey. "When I woke up I heard the doctor, and my sister, but I wasn’t sure what was going on. I guess I just trusted I could relax, I wasn’t in control of anything."
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While Mackey is back home the road to recovery is still ongoing. If you’d like to donate, you can visit the family’s GoFundMe page to help: https://gofund.me/c70eaf95.