DARLINGTON—A tragic ending to a plastic surgery disaster led Darlington native Don Ayer to publish a book about the death of his daughter.
Ayer said he remembers the day—Sept. 25, 2003—he got the phone call telling him his daughter, Julie (Ayer) Rubenzer, was in a Florida hospital following a routine breast implant surgery gone wrong.
“It was a secret procedure,” Ayer said. “Nobody knew about it.”
Julie flat-lined after receiving anesthesia for the procedure. After several minutes of the doctor proceeding with the surgery while she was not breathing, she was resuscitated and taken to the hospital because she did not regain consciousness.
Ayer and his wife kept a diary of the events that followed, including his fight for guardianship of his comatose daughter, her deteriorating physical condition, the transportation of his daughter from Florida to Wisconsin, her death and the personal investigation that followed. He eventually turned those notes into a story about what his family went through and made it into a book—“The Who’s Next Club: A Cosmetic Surgery Disaster”—that was published in September 2011.
Before the book was even published, national television station ABC was interested in the story based off of newspaper articles in Sarasota, Fla. Ayer was interviewed for the TV special that aired in 2004.
A witness to the surgery eventually came forward, first with an anonymous sympathy card saying, “Seek and ye shall find. I know what happened Sept. 25,” then later an interview with ABC after being blown off when reporting it to the Sarasota, Fla., sheriff’s department.
Having a witness secured, Ayer filed a wrongful death suit that was rejected, although the state of Florida did revoke the doctor’s license. When the Michael Jackson case came into the spotlight revealing a similar situation, Ayer attempted to have the doctor charged with homicide, “but there wasn’t enough public pressure to make an arrest like there was in the Jackson case,” Ayer said.
Now he’s trying to get a storm going to find justice for his daughter’s death.
“I’m hoping to change Florida law and affect the cosmetic surgery death rate,” Ayer said. “I have no axe to grind with cosmetic surgery. Julie died from reckless malpractice.”
Ayer, a 1955 graduate of Darlington High School, currently resides in Waukesha. He is working on a second book, a continuation of the saga that has affected his family for the last nine years.