A transgender woman who attended a body-modification party in Orange County died as a result of an off-the-books procedure she received there, investigators said.
Santa Ana police say the woman checked herself into an Irvine hospital on Jan. 1 because she was having trouble breathing. Three weeks later, the 40-year-old was dead, and authorities believe the cause of death was an embolism from a silicone injection.
She "had been to a silicone injection party somewhere in Santa Ana. She had injections in her buttocks for cosmetic reasons," said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, of the Santa Ana Police Department.
It's unclear what type of injections she received or how many, and police are still trying to notify her family.
The Orange County Sheriff's Department identified the victim Friday. NBC4 has not yet spoken with her family and is not publishing her name at this time.
Tony Viramontes, who works with transgender men and women at the LGBT Center OC, said cosmetic surgery can help people feel comfortable in their bodies as part of the transition process.
"They found happiness in seeing their body takes shape. They have hips and a full buttocks and they feel feminine," Viramontes said.
People in transition can sometimes go to great lengths to feel complete, Viramontes said. Parties like this one offer discounts and instant gratificiation.
"People are taking advantage of people looking to change their looks and it can lead to death," said Viramontes, who noted that there is a program to ensure medical procedures are done by licensed doctors.
The parties do come with a tremendous risk.
April Brown shared with NBC4 her story of getting butt injections three years ago, after she had her limbs amputated in emergency surgery to save her life.
The Los Angeles hair dresser suffered septic shock from industrial silicone injections, the kind sold in hardware stores.
Police are urging anyone who attended the December party where the victim received her injections to call them and explain what happened.