LOW-COST PLASTIC SURGERY DRAWS TOURISTS TO SOUTH AFRICA

FIRST LIPOSUCTION, THEN LIONS - BY JON JETER - WASHINGTONPOST.COM - WASHINGTON POST FOREIGN SERVICE - JOHANNESBURG

The surgeon's scalpel had left Peter Kaufman's face swollen and his midsection sore, but his spirits were high as he sipped orange juice and downed scrambled eggs by the hotel's glistening pool. The operation had gone well, and for less than half what it would have cost him back home in Dallas, Kaufman had parted with his jowls and his love handles. Now it was on to the South African bush, where Kaufman's telltale scars could heal far from his neighbors and co-workers' accusatory stares, his secret safe with the safari guide and any elephants or rhinos he came across. "I made the decision that by my 50th birthday I was going to reclaim my life," Kaufman said. "I really wanted to have a face lift, but it's so incredibly expensive in the States. Here I can get everything I want done, go on safari, [and] spend three weeks recuperating for the same price as just the surgical procedure back home. The swelling will be down by the time I return, so I can go back as a new person and it won't look so obvious. And I feel safer here than I do in the U.S. right now. This is just ideal." Kaufman needed to get his groove back and headed east, here to South Africa, where the plastic surgeons are first-rate, the animals are exotic and the dollar goes a long way. The odd combination of lions and liposuction are at the center of this country's growing "medical tourism" industry, which has in turn helped fuel a surge in international travel here since Sept. 11 © 2002 The Washington Post Company