One Georgia woman whose life was nearly destroyed by illegal silicone injections is now speaking out, hoping to warn others against the practice.
Even though her "pump doctor," Miesha Santiago, lacked proper sanitary practices, anesthesia and aftercare, transgender woman Taliyah Cassadine got silicone injections in her breasts, buttocks and cheeks about twice a month for 10 years, KUSA reports.
“I always felt like I had to be better in my looks," Cassadine explains. "I didn't think I could accomplish my goals if I didn't look the part."
So desperate was Cassadine to look good, she kept getting the injections despite the harm it was doing to her health. She would get regular fevers and nearly lost her leg to infection.
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She only stopped getting the injections when Santiago was sentenced to prison for murder after one of the "doctor's" customers died.
But the scars -- both physical and emotional -- remain.
"Here I am walking and breathing, not knowing that I have a rotting corpse inside of me," she said.
Cassadine said the doctors and nurses literally gagged while removing 90 percent of the silicone from her body.
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In response to what Cassadine calls a growing epidemic, she is now hoping to use her experience to help others.
She has since created a Facebook group to warn others about the practice, making sure to reveal its "ugly side."
"I've gotten to the point of removing my shirt and showing people my scars," she said.
She also regularly reports illegal pump doctors to the police and urges more law enforcement officials to clamp down on the practice.
“It's time for people to stop dying to be beautiful,” she said.
Many on social media criticized Cassadine for getting the injections in the first place.
"And I probably paid to have doctors remove this poison with my tax dollars while someone with cancer doesn't receive help!" wrote one person on KUSA's Facebook page. "Disgusting!!!"
"Outside of women doing reconstructive surgery, breast implants are for nothing but vanity," added another. "Why risk your health over that?"
But beauty is only just one of the many reasons people like Cassadine seek illegal silicone treatments.
According to Lambda Legal, transgender people often face enormous barriers to health care for a variety of reasons, ranging from stigma to politicians who do not understand their needs. Consequently, many lack insurance to afford necessary treatments, forcing them to receive the likes of illegal silicone injections.
"Too often, transgender people fall victim to discriminatory health care practices and regulations," explains Cole Thaler, staff attorney for the Transgender Rights Project.