While Argentina's courts continue to debate the future of Aníbal Lotocki, the physician held liable in high-profile malpractice legal cases related to the deaths of dancer Mariano Caprarola and model and actress Silvina Luna, other patients who went under his knife are fearing for their lives.
The list of Lotocki's victims multiplies by the day. Most have filed the same claim in court and are demanding that those who engaged in covering up the doctor's alleged crimes stop “protecting him.” Yet, at the same time, there is a growing fear among them that they may become the latest famous name on the list of Lotocki’s fatal victims. Patients, both famous and anonymous alike, are sharing the anguish over their health conditions and explaining how their lives have changed forever.
The anger is overflowing. We have 20 years to live after the product was applied!” shouted one of the victims at the doctor’s door during a march for justice, which took place on Wednesday September 6, outside Lotocki's home.
The feeling of hopelessness has made some of his former patients break down and cry when they consider the possibility of suffering a similar fate to Luna and Caprarola, alleged victims of the doctor’s wrongdoing.
“It ruined my life. I don’t know if I’m waking up tomorrow or how,” said one former patient, Silvana Di Raimondo, in conversation with Noticias.
Her partner funded her operation but now a dark cloud hangs over her future. That feeling is shared across all those who went to the physician’s office.
“We’re like a ticking time bomb which could go off any minute,” said actress and model Stefy Xipolitakis, speaking about how Lotocki’s former patients face every day of their lives.
Pamela Sosa, the doctor's former partner who went from defending him to being one of his main critics, said: “I only realised what I had [done to me] 10 years after the surgery he performed on me, the first of which was in 2006 and then I found out in 2016 through another surgeon who referred me for tests. You’re afraid because you don’t know what might happen. It’s very difficult to live in constant fear."
Like Xipolitakis and many other victims, Sosa described her situation as a ticking time bomb about to explode. The idea has become their motto and a clock was even placed at the entrance of the doctor’s house by demonstrators who gathered in Olivos to repudiate his work.
“It’s upsetting to think that I’m 33 years old and they nearly amputated my foot thanks to a wicked murdering surgeon. I don’t know what he put into my body. Every day I wake up and check everywhere because I’m afraid I might get something. I’m terrified,” alleged media personality Fran Mariano, another one of the physician’s victims.
Those who were operated on by Lotocki live in constant fear of medical malpractice making a dent on their bodies and generating health disorders.
“I’m in pain, my body shakes, I’ve lost weight, my defences are lower, my family is afraid of me catching pneumonia from a while back,” businesswoman and entrepreneur Gabriela Trenchi said, reflecting on how the chain of events has affected her life.
“I have all my bones decalcified like a 90-year-old. [I'm] Taking so much medication for the pain brings me stomach and bowel problems, not to mention psychological issues,” she said.
Doctor’s appointments and constant medical check-ups have thus become the new reality for Lotocki’s former patients.
“I had an ultrasound done to see how what’s left of my kidney is doing. With all my medication and dieting I’m better. But I’ve never taken such good care of myself in my life. I have to go to great lengths,” said Uruguayan theatre producer Raphael Dufort.
Stefy Xipolitakis recently confessed that she has to get kidney ultrasounds every six months to check her calcium levels. “I could die tomorrow and I didn’t ask for this. I have no mental health today, I’m very fragile,” she explained in previous interviews.
The fear of what Lotocki may have done to his patients’ bodies even spreads to those who show no symptoms but live in fear of being the next victim.
Showgirl Mónica Farro confessed that even though she has had no disorders, after what happened to Caprarola and Luna she decided to go have regular check-ups. “This is all very upsetting, I don’t know what might happen”, she said.
The Uruguayan star also explained how her habits changed after the accusations against Lotocki began being ramped up. “I began to feel different areas of my body. I’ll be more on the lookout to see if I find something. It’s a horrible thing,” she explained.
Actor Virginia Gallardo explained that she has chronic pain and that, although in her case the “cement” injected by Lotocki has not disseminated to other parts of her body, there is little do be done to alleviate the situation.
“If I wanted to take it out, they would have to cut across the muscle. In my case it hasn’t migrated. I work out and generate elasticity with the muscle and it causes a hundred times more pain. The more I exercise, the more it hurts,” she said.
Organisation through unity
Following the death of Luna in late August from health issues related to her plastic surgery nightmare, some of Lotocki’s victims began organising themselves. Some created a WhatsApp group to organise and march in front of Lotocki’s house on September 6.
However, the virtual community quickly mutated, setting up a new functional group in which victims met up to share their particular stories, provide mutual support and encourage other victims to talk about their suffering.
“Another [new] group was formed because questions came up in the middle of it, testimonies from people who’d done different things to solve their problems, others share the doctors they saw,” Gallardo explained. “You don’t know how many unknown cases have joined. The truth is today, after Monday’s newspaper, the issue of calcaemia is very recurrent in many cases."
In the group, those afflicted also share tips on how to mitigate the chronic pain they suffer, the doctors they can go to and legal advice. As it turns out, celebrity lawyer Fernando Burlando, who represents Silvina Luna’s bereaved relatives, has undertaken to represent all of them legally without collecting fees.
This virtual community also helped find that the victims accusing Lotocki are many more than was originally thought, since every person joining the group claims they also know others who were affected. This could lead to a new case against the doctor, combining all these testimonies against him.
The fear lives on.