Dangerous Medical Journeys: Two months in intensive care

The family of a 38-year-old Montrealer who has been in intensive care for more than two months in Turkey are determined to bring her back to the country at any cost after bariatric surgery that has turned into a nightmare.

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“I’m depressed, demoralized. I’m still scared of losing my wife,” says Sami Touggari.

His wife, Soumia Khabzagua, left Quebec on March 28 to have a gastric sleeve surgery (sleeve) at a private hospital in Istanbul, Turkey, for the sum of $10,000.

This type of bariatric surgery for people with severe obesity consists in removing two-thirds of the stomach to reduce its size while reducing the patient’s appetite.

Her bariatric surgery turned horrible after she suffered internal bleeding.

With kind approval

Her bariatric surgery turned horrible after she suffered internal bleeding.

The waiting time in Quebec for this type of operation can be several years and cost the private sector more than $20,000.

But at the beginning of the operation, according to a medical report, there was considerable internal bleeding, which even affected the aorta The newspaper.

Since then, the mother of three has been in a coma for several weeks, and her loved ones are struggling to get clear data on her health.

“We don’t know if it can be cured or not. The doctors failed to reassure us or tell us that there is no hope,” says her friend Dalila Ghazali.

Her family has since spent more than $10,000 extra on Turkish medical services because she didn’t purchase insurance before leaving.


Soumia Khabzagua, who was going through difficult times mentally, was captivated by the Instagram posts of Yasmine Belkacem, an influencer who touts the benefits of bariatric surgery to her 4.3 million subscribers.

This Turkey-based Algerian then referred her to International Clinics, a Turkish medical and aesthetic services company that offers hotel room and airfare packages.

Mme Belkacem, who underwent the surgery herself in the fall of 2021, even visited her in the hospital shortly before the procedures began.

“They told him the operation would take an hour, that it would be easy. They influenced her to stop buying travel insurance,” Ms. saidme ghazali

Yasmine Belkacem and International Clinics did not respond to interview requests from the protocol.

Expensive returns

The relatives of Soumia Khabzagua therefore want to bring her back to Canada so that she can be cared for appropriately.

The surgeries left a large scar on Ms. Khabzagua's abdomen.

With kind approval

The surgeries left a large scar on Ms. Khabzagua’s abdomen.

Due to her precarious health condition, she has to be transported by air ambulance, a journey not paid for by the Canadian consulates. The family estimated the flight between Istanbul and Montreal would cost around $115,000.

“I’m trying to bring my wife back, is there a solution?” implores Mr. Touggari, who has nowhere to turn after Ottawa’s refusal.

For its part, Global Affairs Canada says it provides “ongoing support and consular assistance.”


“The big risk of medical tourism is that the protections that Quebec’s health services provide are more limited or even non-existent,” says Ms.e Patrick Martin Menard.

According to him, it is important to anticipate all situations.

“What is the game plan if there are any complications?” asks the health attorney.

“It’s very difficult to find yourself after an operation in an environment that’s not familiar linguistically, culturally or medically,” he says.

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