03/16/2012 07:54 EDT | Updated 05/16/2012 05:12 EDT

Laser surgery problems spark woman's protest at clinic

A Winnipeg woman whose face was burned and swollen after she had cosmetic laser surgery done four months ago staged a protest outside her dermatologist's office on Thursday.

Doris Roemer and some friends held signs outside Dr. Earl S. Minuk's office on Thursday evening — during an open house his clinic was hosting — to warn others about the risks of having laser surgery done for cosmetic purposes.

Roemer told CBC News she had a swollen nose and eyes, burn marks on her chin, and pus leaking from her face after she had laser surgery done in November to get rid of a scar on the bridge of her nose.

Four months after the surgery, her face is still red and sore, Roemer said.

"I feel awful. You know, I came out of there when I was like that, [and] the few people that had seen me, they said it looked like I had a stroke," she said in an interview.

"They asked me — and they still ask me — 'What's wrong with your face?'"

Paid almost $6,000

Roemer said she paid Minuk almost $6,000 for the procedure, which she claimed she was pressured into getting.

According to Roemer, Minuk said her skin would be pink for just a week or two after treatment.

But Roemer said she has experienced redness and breakouts over the last four months.

She later went back to the clinic and received antibiotics that helped clear up the infection. Roemer also got creams for the redness, but she said they have not helped.

Roemer said she cannot look at herself in the mirror these days.

"I look away; I'm devastated," she said.

Roemer said she has filed a letter of complaint with Minuk, but decided to picket his clinic on Thursday because she has not received an apology.

All procedures have risks, Minuk says

In a written statement, Minuk told CBC News the healing process from cosmetic surgery can take months.

"As well, all procedures have a risk of complication and side effects even with the best care and technique used," Minuk wrote.

Minuk said his staff strive to ensure all their patients understand that risk.

"We understand that awaiting the completion of the healing process can be frustrating and we do our best to help our patients manage their expectations during this healing process," he wrote.

Minuk added that his staff are "happy to address any specific concerns one-on-one with the patient."

It can be difficult to know the extent of problems related to laser surgery procedures because they are not tracked, said Dr. Victoria Taraska, a Winnipeg-based dermatologist and a member of the Canadian Dermatology Association.

Taraska added that patients often seek post-treatment help from the same clinic where they had the procedures done.

"Luckily, they can deal with their own complications, usually," she said.

"So you don't see a lot of complication rates or problems because they can usually deal with them and handle them themselves."

Dermatologists are the most qualified to handle lasers for cosmetic purposes, Taraska said.