Free tattoo removal program at Loma Linda changes people’s skin and lives – NBC Los Angeles

A new program in the Inland Empire is giving people a second chance at life by removing unwanted tattoos.

David Loya has started getting his face tattoos removed and he admits it’s painful.

“It hurts more than getting a tattoo,” Loya said.

But the 34-year-old who grew up in Fontana says it’s worth it, as the tattoos are a constant reminder of his gang and prison life.

“I was hurt. I thought there was no way out. I thought, ‘This is the only life I know and I feel accepted here’, and I did my tattoos to say this is who I am,” he added. mentioned.

But he said a few years ago he realized he didn’t want that kind of life anymore, so he made a promise to himself in prison.

“I was facing a life sentence, I figured this is not where I want to be,” he said.

When he was released from prison, he heard about a tattoo removal program at Loma Linda University Medical Center started by a trauma surgeon. Dr. Sigrid Burruss.

“As you can imagine, having some of these tattoos visible can be a significant challenge when it comes to applying for a job and getting a job,” Burruss said.

Dr. Burruss says laser tattoo removal can cost thousands of dollars, but Loma Linda’s program is free, thanks to grants and community partnerships. She also says it helps patients change the course of their lives.

“It’s a very complex process. The patient has to be really involved, wanting this change in their life, because they have to come back to see us five, six, seven or eight times,” Dr. Burruss said.

It can take months to remove tattoos.

But Loya says the results are life changing.

“I look in the mirror and see the man I want to become,” he said.

He now works for Cityway Community Economic Development Corporationwhich helps low-income people find housing and employment.

“I love it because now I’m helping people move from prison to successful reintegration,” Loya said.

Starting over is something he knows well because it erases the ink from his past.

“A complete transformation from the inside out. I don’t want this life. Now my outside is also transforming. I’m super grateful,” he said.

Ryan H. Bowman