Tummy tuck op left me looking like a MAN: Woman, 38, was left with flap of skin dangling between her legs and friends asking if she’d had a sex change

  • Helena Barrett, 38, lost nine stone after weight loss surgery
  • She was left with unsightly, saggy skin so decided to have it removed
  • After the operation she found she had a flap of skin between her legs
  • It was visible through trousers so friends asked if she had a sex change
  • She saw another surgeon who carried out reconstrutive surgery
  • She has now married her partner, Tim, and had a baby girl

A woman who had a tummy tuck to remove excess skin after weight loss surgery was mortified to wake up and find she had been left with a ‘penis’.

Helena Barrett, 38, was left with a flap of skin dangling between her legs instead of the flat stomach she had hoped for.

The unexpected bulge was so large it could be seen through her trousers - and friends were so shocked they asked her if she had had a sex change.

Helena Barrett (pictured with her husband, Tim) was horrified to find she had been left with a flap of skin dangling between her legs after surgery to remove excess skin from her stomach

Mrs Barrett, from Chesham, Buckinghamshire, said: ‘I was mortified. There was a thick pouch of skin that sagged from the centre of my stomach over my pubic bone so, to put it delicately, I looked like a man.

‘When I went out you could see the bulge through my clothes and people would ask if I'd had a sex change. It was very embarrassing.’

But thanks to reconstructive surgery from TOWIE's favourite surgeon, Mario Russo - known as Dr Boob – Mrs Barrett now has her stomach, and her life back.

She has even found love and given birth to a baby girl.

Mrs Barrett said: ‘When the bandages were removed and I saw the skin hanging between my legs it immediately made me feel like a boy.

‘It was protruding out and looked awful. The doctor assured me that this was normal, but I was just devastated. I thought my life was ruined.

Mrs Barrett (pictured with Tim on their wedding day) was left with saggy skin when she lost nine stone after gastric bypass surgery

‘I can't quite believe that I'm married and a mum to baby girl. I never thought that would happen.’

Mrs Barrett first went under the knife in November 2006 when she had a gastric bypass.

A year later she was nine stone lighter, but unhappy with the saggy skin which resulted from her rapid weight loss.

She tried to live a normal life but two years later finally went to her GP who referred her to the Royal Free Hospital, in Hampstead, for an apronectomy - or a mini tummy tuck - on the NHS.

Mrs Barrett says she was left with such a large 'penis' after the surgery that it was visible through her trousers and some of her friends asked if she had had a sex change

Mrs Barrett said: ‘At hospital I was warned that the surgery wouldn't be perfect. I was told that I would lose my belly button but that it was only another scar and, and as I'd have one from the surgery anyway, I shouldn't worry.

‘The surgeon also said that I may have flaps of skin at each hip. I assumed that this too was normal and so I consented to the surgery.

‘He was a surgeon and told me this was all normal, so I put my trust in him. I had no idea it would turn out the way it did.’

Mrs Barrett had her apronectomy in February 2009, and was initially pleased to see that her loose skin had gone.

She said: ‘At first I thought it looked OK. I was bruised and a bit bloodied but most of the skin had gone.

‘But then I saw the thick 12-inch scar that stretched right across my middle.

‘I was shocked, but then when I saw the huge flaps of skin hanging from either hip, and the skin dangling between my legs, I just burst into tears.’

Mrs Barrett was devastated by the mess she'd been left in - she began to fall into depression and put on weight.

‘In my eyes whenever someone was looking at me they were just looking at my crotch.

‘I thought my days of being self-conscious about my body were over, but I had to start wearing big clothes again to hide my “manhood” and I was embarrassed when I went out.

‘It wasn't how I imagined post-surgery life to be.’

Mrs Barrett was so unhappy with the results of her surgery that she turned to celebrity surgeon, Mario Russo, for help. He carried out a reconstructive procedure to remove the 'penis'

Mrs Barrett endured a year of misery until she decided enough was enough and began to research reconstructive surgery.

It was then that she came across Mario Russo, nicknamed Dr Boob because of his work on a string of celebrities, including Lauren Pope from The Only Way is Essex.

‘As soon as I met Mr Russo I was put at ease. He took one look at me and asked who had done this to me.

‘From then on I knew I could trust him because he was so worried about what had happened.

‘He was genuinely interested in caring for me and always explained everything so well.’

Mrs Barrett (pictured in 2005, before her weight loss) said: 'When the bandages were removed and I saw the skin hanging between my legs it immediately made me feel like a boy'

In June 2011 a nervous Mrs Barrett underwent surgery for a third time.

‘I was really anxious and so scared. A part of me couldn't believe I was doing this again, but I knew things couldn't get any worse, so it was worth a try.

‘I was in surgery for five hours and when I woke up Mario let me feel my stomach.

‘I was almost too scared to do it, but soon I realised I had a flat tummy, a belly button - and no penis.

‘It was amazing, I couldn't stop crying.’

Mrs Barrett (pictured in hospital) was confident enough after her reconstructive surgery to organise a date with an old friend and the couple soon got engaged - they are now married

As soon as she was well enough, she organised a date with Tim Barrett - an old friend she had been chatting to on Facebook prior to her surgery.

She said: ‘I already knew of Tim as we'd grown up in the same area, and when he got in touch I found myself feeling happy again for the first time in ages.

‘He was lovely and charming, and when he asked me out I was chuffed, but I couldn't let him see the state I was in at the time.

‘I'd told him I was having an operation and would he be interested in going out afterwards - I didn't want to go into too much detail about what was happening.

‘I was gutted to have to put the date off, so it was great when I could finally meet up with him after my surgery.’

Mrs Barrett says she was warned of the risks of the skin removal surgery but that she trusted the surgeon. Image shows her stomach being marked up before the operation

After a whirlwind romance the couple got engaged just a few months later.

Mrs Barrett said: ‘Tim proposed to me in the following October at the top of a hill as we watched the sun set.

‘I couldn't quite believe it. I'd gone from a self-conscious “man”, to a beautiful bride to be.

‘Everything seemed to just fall into place. It was magical.’

Mrs Barrett (pictured when she was pregnant) feared she would never be able to have children but she gave birth to a daughter, Frankie, in early 2013

Mrs Barrett was delighted when in May 2012 he discovered she was pregnant.

She said: ‘It was a total surprise when I found out I was pregnant.

‘When the pregnancy test showed a positive result I couldn't believe it. I just walked around the house for ages with a huge smile on my face.

‘I rang Tim and blurted it out and I think we were both in a state of shock. I never thought that I'd have any children.

‘Luckily we managed to get over that initial shock and were both over the moon.’

Three months later, Mrs Barrett walked down the aisle to marry Tim.

She said: ‘My wedding day was incredible. It was the first time in my life that I felt truly beautiful.

‘After everything that I'd gone through, I never thought I'd be stood in a wedding dress getting married to the love of my life.’

The couple welcomed their little girl, Frankie, into the world in January this year.

Mrs Barrett said: ‘She's the most gorgeous thing I've ever seen and I adore being a mum.

‘I've finally found my happy ending.’

A spokesperson for the Royal Free Hospital in London said: 'We are sorry to learn that Mrs Barrett was unhappy with the results of her operation. Mrs Barrett has not made a formal complaint.

'In her case, surgeons explained the difference between an abdominoplasty and an apronectomy.

'Mrs Barrett was advised that it might not be possible to preserve her navel and it was also emphasised that following surgery, she might be unhappy with the cosmetic appearance of her abdomen.

'Mrs Barrett signed a consent form indicating that she understood this information and wished to proceed to surgery.

Mrs Barrett (pictured in 2012 after her reconstructive surgery) said: 'I was almost too scared to [have more surgery], but soon I realised I had a flat tummy, a belly button - and no penis. It was amazing, I couldn't stop crying'

'Following substantial weight loss, people may be left with excess folds of skin in the abdominal area, which can cause functional problems such as ulceration and skin infections. In order to alleviate these problems, NHS patients may be offered an apronectomy.

'In contrast, an abdominoplasty operation is a cosmetic surgery procedure where the aim of the operation is to improve the aesthetic appearance of the abdomen, and this includes preserving the navel. The NHS does not routinely offer this operation.

'The intention of an apronectomy is to improve the patient’s function and reduce the risk of infection rather than improving their appearance. 

'Preserving the navel adds to the length of time patients remain under general anaesthetic, which in turn increases their risks of developing blood clots in the legs and lungs and increases the risk of problems with wound healing.

'Surgeons must weigh up the risk of increasing the operating time against the risks of prolonged anaesthesia, blood clots and wound healing complications.

'Before patients undergo an NHS-funded apronectomy following weight loss, surgeons at the Royal Free Hospital explain the nature of the operation, the associated risks and the aim of surgery. An apronectomy in these circumstances should not be confused with an abdominoplasty where the objective is to improve the aesthetic appearance of the abdomen.'

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