She Died After Undergoing a Popular Surgery. Her Family Has a Warning for Others

Heather Meadows from West Virginia died after traveling to Miami to get a Brazilian butt lift.

Reggie and Tammy Meadows are like many grandparents, loving, playful and caring.

But they are now raising two of their grandchildren, Malaya and Malakai, since the death of their daughter, Heather.

"I'm going to take care of them and work as long as I can and make sure they are taken care of," Reggie said.

Heather Meadows died in Miami on May 12, 2016.

She traveled from her home in West Virginia to South Florida to get what's known as a Brazilian butt lift or BBL, a popular plastic surgery procedure in which fat is taken from other parts of the body and transferred into the buttocks.

"I don't think that she needed anything done, she was a very beautiful girl but you know, women, and men, we all have our insecurities and some people move forward to make themselves happy," said her sister, Lea Ann Kade.

Lea says her youngest sister did "a lot of research" before doing her surgery but she was nervous about the procedure.

"She said 'I've even thought of not going,'" Lea said.

Lea remembers taking her sister to the airport and saying goodbye.

"She was going up the escalators with the luggage behind her… I'll never get that image out of my mind," Lea said. "I was just waving and she turned around and she started to cry and she just waved back and that was the last time I saw her."

When Heather got to Miami, she met up with her friend, Amanda Rodgers, who was getting the same procedure done. They both went for their pre-op and Rodgers later told NBC 6 Investigators the two were told their surgeries were being moved from Vanity Cosmetics, the clinic they chose, to an affiliated clinic called Encore.

Rodgers said they were told their surgeon would be James McAdoo.

"When we got there, the pre-op only consisted of filling out paperwork, paying the rest of our money, and being weighed in. That was it. They said Dr. Mcadoo was too busy and we'd just speak to him in the morning," Rodgers told NBC 6 Investigators during an interview in 2016. 

Heather went into surgery the next morning.

Her family says they waited for word that she came out ok, but that's not the call they received.

"It was a female in the other end. She said you need to get here," Lea said. "She said your sister is on life support."

Lea says she got in her car and drove for 14 hours. By the time, she got to Miami, her sister was dead.

Heather's autopsy shows she died of a fat embolism -  when the fat being injected back in her got into her bloodstream, causing her to stop breathing.

Her death led the NBC 6 Investigators to uncover more than a dozen women who also died after a Brazilian butt lift. The procedures were done at different clinics with different doctors.

Records show the Florida Health Department has filed a medical malpractice complaint against Dr. McAdoo. The Board of Medicine could revoke or suspend his license. Dr. McAdoo didn't respond to our multiple requests for comment. Florida's Department of Health said attorneys representing both sides are still collecting information, gathering expert witness testimony and conducting interviews as well as trying to negotiate a possible settlement agreement.

While his case is heard, McAdoo is allowed to keep doing plastic surgeries.

That's something that frustrates Heather's dad.

"They do something wrong, put 'em on a shelf for six months or something, penalize them somehow, just don't slap them on the wrist and say here, go on back and do it to somebody else," Reggie said.

After our investigations aired, state lawmakers passed a law allowing the Florida Health Department to immediately suspend a doctor's license in the case of serious injury or death. The state's Board of Medicine also began prohibiting doctors from inserting fat too deeply into a patient's backside to avoid blood vessels - as a way to make these surgeries safer.

"Her death won't be so much in vain if she can help, you know, other women," Lea said.

While pleased that there have been some changes, Heather's family believes more can be done.

"They took away a daughter, a sister, a mother, a friend. They took a very, very good person from this world," Lea said. "I couldn't even put into words how much she's missed and loved."

When Heather died, her daughter, Malaya, was just three months old while her son, Malakai, was 6.

Reggie remembers having to tell his grandson his mom was gone.

"All I could do is sit down and cry with him," Reggie said while fighting back tears. "It's all I could do."

Lea says she tries to be strong for her parents, nephew and niece.

"It's sad that I lost a sister but at the end of the day they lost a child. Her children, they lost their mommy," Lea said, tearing up.

Encore, the Hialeah surgery center where Heather had the procedure, went through several name and ownership changes before closing.

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