Medical tourism: Safety in wake of Mexico kidnappings

Four Americans were kidnapped by members of the Mexican Cartel while crossing the border for a medical procedure. It is something many Americans do because the healthcare costs are much lower in other countries. A Texas woman who previously received a medical procedure in Mexico tells FOX 7 Austin she was shocked to hear what happened.

In January of 2020, Brooke Leonard had a bariatric surgery with a surgeon in Tijuana, Mexico.

"For me, it was so valuable for me. It changed my life, and I wouldn't have been able to have that experience if it wasn't for the option of utilizing medical tourism," she said.

She calls her results from that surgery amazing. In the past three years, Brooke has lost 185 pounds, became a nurse, and, overall, just has a better outlook on life.

"My life completely changed because of having bariatric surgery, and I wouldn't have been able to have [this life] if I hadn't gone to Mexico and did it," said Leonard.

Now three years post op, she has learned more about the four Americans who were kidnapped by members of the Mexican cartel after crossing the border for a medical procedure. Two are recovering and the other two were killed.

"It was really, really shocking for me to read that that happened to someone that was traveling there for medical tourism," she said.

Looking back at her experience, Leonard says at no point during her trip did she ever feel unsafe.

"I didn't ever have the fear that the cartel was going to pick me up and that something like that was going to happen because I had so much faith in their process to keep me safe while I was there," Leonard said.

A process she calls "a well-oiled machine".

"I flew into San Diego and the company that I worked with picked me up at the airport. They took us over the border, and we stopped at the hospital that I had my surgery at, and then they took us to the hotel that they were affiliated with," she recalled.

She said she was always with a staff member with the company and was never responsible for handling her own transportation at any time.

"Honestly, I never felt unsafe. I never felt like I was in any kind of danger," said Leonard.

Leonard says she does not know all the ins and outs of what happened to those four Americans, but says she is not afraid of medical tourism. She just warns others interested to do their research.

"I think it's a risk that you take whenever you travel to a different country anywhere in the world. I do think that there are reliable companies that will keep you safe," she said.