Special Report: Clean Slate

"I've always wanted work. I've always wanted ink in my skin. I've always wanted tattoos," Shaun Purdy said looking over his ink covered forearms. 

Most of it was done in a home by a self proclaimed tattoo artist. 

It wasn't until he walked into Mundo's Tattoo Shop at 18, the legal age to get a tattoo, that he realized the dangers he escaped. 
"He took the time to sit down and talk to me. Preached to me about the dangers of homemade tattooing. And it really opened my eyes," Purdy said.

Purdy immediately got tested for HIV and Hepatitis C. The test were negative. 

"It was a big risk. I'm lucky. I'm lucky I'm clean and healthy," Purdy said.

While public health officials won't go as far as to call it an epidemic, they will say it's a growing concern. 

Rodolfo "Mundo" Trevino is an educator first, tattoo artist second. Lesson number one is always the dangers of home made tattoos.

"They won't be able to show you or explain procedures because they don't know how," Trevino said of people who tattoo from their homes. 

In today's world people are soliciting customers by word of mouth and social media offering great work for a cheap price.

A simple facebook search and 12News found a person advertising that he turned his room into a tattoo studio with great deals. 

But it gets worse. 

"We have people coming into our studio letting us know their child had been tattooed by another child in junior high. I've heard of elementary students tattooing each other in class or during a break," Trevino said. 

Trevino showed us what they use. Makeshift tattoo machines or cheaper versions that can be purchased online. 

Trevino says it's impossible to sterilize the equipment and needles are often reused which could lead to the spread of infections.

Even the ink is often homemade.

"I've heard of urine being mixed with the ink," he said.

Getting past the dangers is one thing. Living with the finished product is another.

"Hack jobs. Nothing pretty or professional about it," Trevino said. 

That's where board certified Dr. Kenneth Wilgers comes in. While other doctors do offer tattoo removal in Southeast Texas.

He's the only in the area with an Astanza Duality Laser. A laser that's primary purpose is to remove tattoos.

"It's a special thing to be able to do that for someone. It's kind of like surgery. They come in, receive a treatment and they leave better," Dr. Wilgers said.

He's been doing it for less than a year. But his work has already proven successful.
World War II Veteran Horace Hebert feels like he has new life after having "true love" removed from his knuckles. 

"I've always been ashamed of these on my fingers and he said he'd take them off. And he has," Hebert said with a slight chuckle. 
The average removal requires about five session with treatments lasting around 30 seconds. The popping noise accompanied with tattoo removal is the laser causing the ink under the skin to explode. 

"Which causes some discomfort. But it breaks down the ink molecules enough that the body can naturally remove them like it would anything else.
Dr. Wilgers gives people a clean slate. 

Purdy is instead opting to have his tattoos redone professionally. 
"People who do homemade tattoos, they don't care what their art looks like. They're just worried about that dollar bill," he said.

Tattoo studios are regulated by the state and must receive licensing. If you have concerns just ask the artist for that documentation.

The health department advises against getting a tattoo anywhere except a professional studio.

Tattoo removal is not covered by insurance. Dr. Wilgers says it can take anywhere from four to seven treatments to remove one.

Treatments can costs anywhere from $75 to $250 but he offers discounts for payment of multiple treatments up front.




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