Transgender Rajee Narinesingh on the Aftermath of Illegal Injections: “It Was So Bad, the Knife Broke During Surgery”
Jager Weatherby on 16 Apr 2015 at 5:00pm
Be it Botox or breast implants, the decision to undergo a cosmetic procedure isn’t one to be taken lightly. While the possibility of improving your self-confidence is incredibly high, corners should not be cut when it comes to researching your treatment and your doctor.
Many people have had to learn this lesson the hard way, including 46-year-old Miami resident Rajee Narinesingh. Back in 2005, the transgender woman became one of several victims of Oneal Ron Morris, an unlicensed “doctor” who specialized in performing black market injections. At the time, Morris (herself a transgender woman) assured Rajee that, while she wasn’t a board-certified plastic surgeon, she had medical training and experience as a nurse.
MORE: Board-Certification: How to Know If Your Surgeon Is Legitimately Certified
“As a transgender woman, I felt the need to feminize myself beyond just using hormones,” Rajee reveals to RealSelf. “As far as my physical appearance was concerned, the hormones were not giving me the facial modifications for feminine attributes that I desired. I also dreamed of one day being on the big screen or modeling, so I knew I needed to do some tweaking to enhance my appearance.”
Rajee heard about Morris (nicknamed “The Duchess”) through the transgender community. “A lot of the girls I knew had gone to her to get work done,” Rajee explains. “Since I didn’t have the financial backing to go to a licensed cosmetic surgeon, I decided to see her.” Aside from monetary limitations, sharing a transgender identity played a large part in Rajee’s decision to visit The Duchess. “I felt that because we were both transgender, we had an unspoken bond. I thought she would have my back because we both came from the same place of struggle and strife. I trusted her wholeheartedly.”
Over the course of three sessions, Rajee received injections in her lips, cheeks, jawline, breasts, buttocks, and hips. She describes the injections into her breasts as “excruciatingly painful to endure.” At the time, The Duchess promised Rajee she was using medical-grade silicone — “silicone” which later turned out to be a combination of tire inflator and cement. [Editor’s note: The FDA has not approved liquid silicone or silicone gel for injection into any part of the body.]
MORE: Botched Season 1 Finale: Dr. Nassif on Transgender Monique Allen, Illegal Injections, and More
At first, everything seemed to be going well — that is until a year later, when Rajee woke up to an enormous boil-like mass on the side of her face. “It was extremely painful, warm to the touch, and burning,” she explains. “It continued to grow throughout the day, becoming increasingly more painful. That’s when I knew something was seriously wrong and that I had done detrimental damage to myself.” Rajee reveals that she continued to press on the mass throughout the day, eventually rupturing the infection. She later learned that had the infection not been released in this way, it could have very likely traveled into her bloodstream causing life-threatening complications.
A few months later, Rajee developed rock-hard nodules “the size of golf-balls” in her face. Yet even after that, it took her a full year to seek professional help. “I was in denial for a long time,” she admits. “I’m a strong activist for the LGBT community. The director of the YES Institute (an educational organization for gender and orientation) was deeply concerned for my health and recommended I see [facial plastic surgeon] Dr. John Martin.”
The severity of the situation wasn’t made fully clear until Rajee’s first surgery with Dr. Martin. “He told me it would take around 45 minutes,” she explains. “However, once he saw the magnitude of the damage, I was on the operating table for four hours. The nodules were so hard, the surgical knife broke during surgery.”
MORE: What Really Happens Inside Your Body When You Use Illegal Fillers
It’s been a slow road to recovery as Rajee has continued to get monthly treatments over the last seven years. While most of the procedures have involved ultrasound therapy and removal of the nodules, they may have to take a more serious measure down the road. “Because she also had injections in her breasts, we may have to do a mastectomy at some point,” Dr. Martin reveals. “Otherwise there’s no way to get all of it out.”
Rajee will never be able to return to her pre-injection self, but she feels lucky to even be alive. Other victims of Oneal Ron Morris can’t say as much. In late 2013, The Duchess was sentenced to a year in prison for illegally practicing medicine. She still faces a manslaughter charge for the death of Shatarka Nuby, a woman whose buttocks she injected with silicone that she purchased from Home Depot.
“I will never be 100% recovered, but Dr. Martin has made a significant improvement for me physically, mentally, and emotionally,” says Rajee. “It’s a work in progress and I get better with every treatment.”
Photos courtesy of Vine Communications, Inc. and the Miami Gardens Police Department