Breast implant may have saved woman’s life, doctor says


LOS ANGELES — When a gunman stormed a Simi Valley, Calif., dental office last summer and shot Lydia Carranza in the chest, salvation may have come in the shape of her size-D breast implant.

That’s the theory at least of a Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon who hopes to drum up support to defray the costs of Carranza’s reconstructive surgery.

“She’s just one lucky woman,” said Dr. Ashkan Ghavami,
who says he will perform the surgery for next to nothing but has urged
Carranza to tell her story in hopes of getting implant companies to
donate the supplies.

Ghavami contends that the implant absorbed much of the bullet’s impact, limiting most of the damage to the breast itself.

“I saw the CT scan,” he said. “The bullet fragments
were millimeters from her heart and her vital organs. Had she not had
the implant, she might not be alive today.”

The hospital where Carranza was treated is not prepared to make that call.

“This is not a medical issue; it’s a ballistic issue,” said Kris Carraway, a spokeswoman for Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
“The emergency physician who treated the patient was not aware of the
breast implant having any impact or whether or not it saved her life.”

But Scott Reitz, a firearms
instructor and deadly-force expert witness with 30 years’ experience in
the LAPD, said that, although he was not involved in the case, the
scenario Ghavami describes is entirely plausible.

“Common sense would dictate that any time you have
something that interrupts the velocity of the projectile, it would
benefit the object it was trying to strike,” he said. And because a
saline implant is like a high-pressure bag full of salt water, it
probably would provide more resistance than plain flesh, he said.

“I don’t want to say a boob job is the equivalent of
a bulletproof vest,” he added. “So don’t go getting breast enhancements
as a means to deflect a possible incoming bullet.”

For her part, Carranza, a mother of three and
grandmother of two, says she is grateful to have survived far “worse
than a scary movie.”

On July 1, she was sitting at the
front desk of Family Dental Care as usual when the husband of one of
her co-workers marched into the office armed with a semiautomatic
assault rifle, Carranza said.

His target was his wife, who had recently asked for a divorce.

Carranza said that when his wife’s brother, who also
worked at the office, tried to reason with him, the gunman shot him in
the stomach. Carranza heard the wife plead with her husband to stop and
then heard shots. The woman was killed.

The gunman found Carranza and a handful of other co-workers hiding in a tiny office supply room and opened fire once more.

First Carranza was hit in the right arm. She
pretended she was dead. But then he aimed his rifle point blank at her
heart, she said.

“I didn’t look or think about it. I just felt wet in my chest area. I thought I was going to die,” she said.

So did her husband, Benny Carranza, a supervisor at the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, who was downtown when he heard his wife had been shot.

“I was so desperate to get there I was driving in
the carpool lane, I was driving on the shoulders, I was talking on my
cellphone,” he said.

Jaime Paredes, the alleged shooter, awaits trial. He
is being held without bail on numerous counts including murder and
premeditated attempted murder.

Lydia and Benny Carranza, who have been married 22 years, moved to Simi Valley about 10 years ago to be in a safe neighborhood.

By the time she was 35, Lydia Carranza wasn’t feeling so great about her body, she said.

“I couldn’t wear any dress that didn’t make my breasts look saggy,” she said. So she decided to up her B-cups to D-cups.

She loved her new look and how other people admired her at family reunions and social outings.

Now her right breast is scarred, the implant deflated.

She tried sticking a silicone pad in her bra, she
said, but “one day it fell out when I was at work. I was sitting there
and when I stood up, there it goes. So I said I’m not doing that
anymore.” At the gym, she has often felt self-conscious, she said,
pulling a towel over her chest area and holding back tears.

Doctors told her she could not undergo reconstructive surgery for at least six months because her wounds needed time to heal.

When that time had passed and she started looking
for doctors, she found some too expensive and some uncertain they could
perform the complicated procedures, she said. Then a friend introduced
her to Ghavami.

“He gave me a lot of hope,” said Carranza.

(c) 2010, Los Angeles Times.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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