If Aura Javellana were still alive she would be 30 years old.
"She wasn't just my sister, she wasn't just family, she was my best friend,” said Aileen Javellana Alvarez.
Aura would be a wife, maybe even a mother.
"I always imagined me and my sister's kids playing together,” said Javellana Alvarez.
Aura was the family's hope. She was the first college graduate and a software whiz at 28. It all ended after a trip to Sono Bello in Bellevue.
Aura must have been convinced by Sono Bello's ads and marketing materials. One ad claimed "Sono Bello's micro laser liposuction and ultrasound techniques are so minimally invasive there's virtually no recovery period.” Another said the procedure is “so easy that most of our clients are back to work the next day."
Looking to slim down fast before her upcoming wedding, Aura secretly went to the body contour center for liposuction. Hours later she was dead.
It was her fiance who broke the news. "He sounded hysterical on the phone, and I said Justin, please don't tell me, and he did. She had passed away,” said Javellana Alvarez.
Aileen Javellana Alvarez has never spoken publically about her sister's death until now. She agreed to let KING air the taped interview prepared by the attorney the family hired to look into what went wrong.
The King County Medical Examiner ruled that Aura died from acute lidocaine intoxication. Lidocaine is used to suppress pain during liposuction but must be closely monitored because it can be toxic.
KING-TV first reported the death to the Washington State Department of Health. For two years, the station tried to get an explanation for what went wrong. Dr. Marco Sobrino, who did Aura's procedure, refused to talk.
In May 2010, KING asked Dr. Pam Sowder from the Northwest Society of Plastic Surgeons to interpret the levels found in Aura's blood. She characterized the levels of lidocaine as “really, really high, stratospheric high.”
Sono Bello referred KING’s numerous interview requests to their attorney who told us the clinic can't comment on specific patients but said that Sono Bello uses lidocaine within established guidelines and the toxicology numbers are subject to interpretation.
Last December, Aura's family sued Sono Bello, alleging Aura died from medical negligence.
Without admitting any wrongdoing, Sono Bello, Sobrino and their insurers have agreed to pay the family more than $1.8million dollars to settle the claim.
"It doesn't bring Aura back, but they are glad that the defendants have agreed to pay a significant amount of money. They feel that the defendants are being held accountable for the tragic loss," said family attorney Cydney Campbell Webster.
Contacted about the settlement, Sono Bello issued a statement saying "SonoBello extends its heartfelt sympathies to the family of Aura Javellana. Sono Bello hopes that the recent settlement will assist the family in dealing with their loss of May 2009. We respect the family's grief and accordingly have chosen not to discuss the particular facts and circumstances behind this matter."
It's rare that details of a large settlement like this are made public.
"It is unusual. Sono Bello did want to sweep this under the rug.” said Campbell Webster.
The attorney said that Sono Bello offered an even higher settlement if the family would keep the agreement confidential. But they refused.
“They offered a lot of money and the family felt very strongly that they did not want to take the money to be silenced,” said Campbell Webster.
In its statement Sono Bello said: "We acknowledge that there was an attempt by both parties to reach an agreement regarding confidentiality of the settlement. SonoBello was not prepared to meet the financial demands of the estate in this regard."
Aura's family says that they will never get over her loss. But they want the public to continue to hear her story--how a procedure touted as easy and painless, cost the young bride-to-be her life.
When Aura had her procedure done at Sono Bello, it wasn't being licensed or inspected because it's classified as a cosmetic clinic that does not use general anesthesia. But after KING reported her death to the health department, the state established new rules requiring all clinics to be accredited by one of four national agencies.
The health department has charged Dr. Marco Sobrino with unprofessional conduct and delivering medical care below state standards. He denies the charges. Sobrino's hearing in front of the state medical commission is scheduled for November.
Read the full Sono Bello Statement from Aug. 17, 2011:
"SonoBello extends its heartfelt sympathies to the family of Aura Javellana. SonoBello hopes that the recent settlement will assist the family in dealing with their loss of May 2009. We respect the family’s grief and accordingly have chosen not to discuss the particular facts and circumstances behind this matter. The claims against us were settled by our insurance company and there was no finding of fault or admission of liability on the part of SonoBello or the involved physician. We acknowledge that there was an attempt by both parties to reach an agreement regarding confidentiality of the settlement. SonoBello was not prepared to meet the financial demands of the estate in this regard. SonoBello’s current accreditation from the AAAHC (Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care) exemplifies our ongoing commitment to the highest standards of care for our patients."