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Winnipeg woman scarred by tattoo, possibly from unclean tools; artist denies allegations

Alexa Twerdochlib is speaking out after having a negative experience with tattoo artist Rafal Piasecki, one of more than 30 people to do so, claiming alongside financial losses, the tattoo artist scarred her for life. Morgan Modjeski reports.

By Morgan Modjeski

WARNING: Story contains graphic images.

A woman in Winnipeg thought her life was going to change forever after a tattoo she received became infected.

“When it was really bad, I was worried I was going to lose my leg,” said Alexa Twerdochlib.

Twerdochlib is one of a group of more than 30 people in Winnipeg speaking out after having negative experiences with tattoo artist Rafal Piasecki.

BACKGROUND: Manitoba tattoo artist allegedly owes $80K for unfinished tattoos

Losses among the group of complainants have surpassed $80,000, according to one person compiling the list of former clients.

They say tattoos were paid up front, and the work was never finished.

Piasecki denies the allegations that have been made against him.

But for Twerdochlib, it went beyond a loss of money and an unfinished tattoo. She says her tattoo experience also left her with physical scars.

“I was feeling like my leg was essentially a hotdog in a microwave ready to blow up,” she described.

Twerdochlib says she paid $5,000 for a leg sleeve, and that parts of the tattoo were done at Piasecki’s home.

She says she followed the appropriate aftercare routine, but something went wrong.

“It got worse, essentially the ink part was peeling off in strips and falling off my body,” she recounted.

After getting many tattoos, she says this is the first time this has happened.

Her doctor says she contracted an antibiotic-resistant infection, from possibly unclean tools and conditions, or over-tattooing and mutilating of the skin.

CityNews reached out to Piasecki, who denied his work caused the infection. He says improper aftercare was to blame, and that he used clean equipment. Piasecki also denies he owes Twerdochlib any money – a figure she pegs at $1,000.

Twerdochlib says after three months of medical care and antibiotics, the infection started to clear, but the scars remain.

More oversight needed in tattoo industry?

Twerdochlib wants to see Piasecki face consequences and wants to see more oversight in the industry overall.

“Certifications for body modification, tattoos, anything like that should be seriously looked into,” she said. “And it may be even harsh, but background checks done. They should be seeing who’s tattooing and what kind of people these are.”

Piasecki refused to do an interview, but says he is trying to remedy the situation with those he owes money to or has allegedly harmed.

“I didn’t cheat people and I wanted to finish what I started,” he told CityNews. “If we hadn’t attacked me and given me time, the case would have been over for sure. And now I will be answerable just before the court.”

The province says it is prohibited to tattoo in a person’s home or in a facility without a proper health permit, and any such violations would be “investigated by public health inspectors and is subject to enforcement.”

The province noted 106 inspections have been conducted this year alone, with operators facing closures and convictions posted on the Health Protection Reports website.

As for Twedochlib, she encourages anyone considering getting ink, to do their homework.

“I would say do a very extreme and intense background check on who your artist is and who you’re possibly employing,” she said.

WATCH: Group wants to see tattoo artist who worked in Winnipeg charged

‘Think before you ink’ says dermatologist

Dr. Victoria Taraska, a Winnipeg dermatologist with more than 30 years’ experience, says it’s important to look for certain red flags when getting a tattoo.

“You want to look at the places you are going to,” said Taraska. “Don’t go to a basement place, or a non-reputable place, you want to go to a sterile and clean environment to get a tattoo.”

Taraska says if you’re in an unsuitable environment, infection is a very real possibility, which can affect more than your skin health.

“The skin is the largest organ in the body and because it’s so visible, it can affect our quality of life significantly, so a lot of skin conditions may not kill you, or harm your internal organs, but psychologically because it’s so visible, it impacts mental health in a big, big way,” she said.

“Always with tattoos, the old adage is ‘think before you ink.’”

WATCH: Experts warn of tattoo red flags after allegations against Winnipeg artist

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