In February of 1996 I went for my first consultation with the plastic surgeon. I was 25 and wore a 34AA bra. I had always been petite and small busted and was sick of having all of my clothes altered and wearing padded bras all of the time.
When I went to see him I was examined and told that I was a good candidate for it. After talking and meeting with so many other women sick from the saline implants, I think good candidate means able to afford the first surgery.
He told me that the salines were completely safe ... and in the "very rare" chance that the implants would leak or break ... that the salt water would be harmlessly absorbed into my body.
My plastic surgeon claimed that in 18 years he had seen only one leak. The only other complications that he discussed with me were the normal risks with surgery -- infection and anesthesia problems. When I got the paperwork to sign with numerous other warnings on it I asked questions and was assured that those were only because of the problems with the silicone -- not saline.
He was not being honest with me at all!
I bought into the dream and paid my money. The operation was scheduled for April, 1996. He recommended the armpit crease incision to avoid breast scars and putting the implants under the muscle as I was very small busted and they would look more natural. He also recommended textured implants and said they had less of a risk for capsular contracture.
Within 6 months that too proved to be false!
The surgery was much more painful that he warned me about. I now find it amusing that his office staff and he always call it a procedure instead of surgery or an operation.
I figured though that pain was a small price to pay for looking good. He assured me that once they healed, they'd be great.
Several months later, they still were not looking right. They were not at all natural -- and were very hard and high and still painful.
By January he scheduled me for another operation as I had developed capsular contracture. This is the body's way of protecting itself from foreign objects. There were hard shells of scar tissue that felt like rocks that surrounded the implants.They both had to be removed and reinserted.
This additional surgery took a toll on my body and I needed several months to completely heal.
After that things went well for about two years. I thought finally that my "dream" was going to be realized.
Then one Sunday morning in May, 1999 I woke up lopsided!
With in a few hours ... one of my implants had completely deflated.
I was very scared and called my Plastic Surgeon's emergency service. After five messages, he finally called back he assured me that it was completely safe and he would fix it.
On Wednesday I was back in for surgery to have the implant replaced. Apparently the valve had failed and leaked. He said that this was very rare.
Now I know otherwise after meeting so many other women who have had several implant failures.
They would not show me the implant when I asked to see it after the surgery which made me wonder about them but I trusted him ... he was my doctor, right?
Shortly after this I started having a lot of headaches.
I was treated for migraines and allergies.
Nothing would work.
Then I started getting severe cramping and muscle spasms in my neck and shoulders and had to be put on muscle relaxers.
My health got worse and worse and I was very much in pain most of the time and extremely stressed out.
I saw numerous doctors and was treated with anti-depressants as they felt the anxiety was caused by the chronic pain.
After this I was just always sick ... always had a cold, sinus infections, ear infections... you name it!
I hadn't had three ear infections in my life until I was 25 and then I was having 4 & 5 a year!
Every flu or virus that comes along ... I get it!
The headaches were getting worse and I started seeing neurologists then chiropractors and massage therapists, and finally a pain management doctor as a last resort. During my exam he noted that it seemed that I had a lot of scar tissue in my neck area and wanted to know if I had been in a bad accident.
I told him I hadn't ... but thankfully, I did mention my implants. He then asked if I had ever had a leak.
I think my heart probably stopped for a whole minute then ... I had never thought of this.
The medical doctors had run test after test never giving me any answers ... and no one even brought up the possible connection to health concerns and breast implants!
I started researching and became extremely terrified after finding several different web sites with other women's breast implant horror stories.
They were almost word for word what I was going through!
I had thought I was the only one!
I could not believe this could be happening. After all ... I was assured by medical doctors that they were "safe."
After doing a lot of soul searching and research ... I decided to have them removed.
I went back to my implanting plastic surgeon to ask him to do it for me.
I mentioned all of the info I found out and told him I did not want to risk my health anymore.
His attitude completely changed at this point.
He said that I needed to wait another 6 months as he was sure that I would change my mind.
I said that there was no possibility of me changing my mind but he wouldn't listen. I told him that I was scared and would gladly pay for the operation ... I wasn't asking for a freebie. He treated me horribly saying that I needed to be tested for cancer and other diseases as my illnesses were probably from one of those and he couldn't operate if I had cancer.
I assured him several times during the conversation that I would have all of the tests performed that he felt necessary to rule those out first.
You can imagine how frightening this was!
He continued to tell me that I would look horrible afterwards and would regret the decision. He tried to talk me out of it ... which I now know is very typical plastic surgeon behavior.
At this point in his office I started crying and begging him to please put me on his schedule as he is pretty booked all of the time and in the meantime I would have all of the testing done he needed .
He walked out of the room while I was talking to him ... I was really bawling at this point ... and he never said another word to me.
Gone was the nice guy saying that everything would be fine and I was going to look beautiful.
I was so distraught after leaving his office that I could not even drive for an hour. I just sat in my car and cried. Within a week I had another appointment with a different doctor. Upon seeing him he agreed to remove them based on my findings and scheduled my operation.
Within about three months I was under the knife for the fourth time ... this time for total removal.
I asked for the implants so I could have them analyzed and he agreed.
I took them home with me and after a few days had the courage to look at them.
One was yellow (see photo, right side) with small chunks floating in it and some black mold inside and out.
The other (the newer one replacing the first deflation!) looked clearer but the valve was black and the insides were full of yellowish chunks and moldy growths.
The explanting surgeon said that this was tissue growth and mold in the valve which was holding it open.
I sent them to a wonderful biochemist in Canada who for years has specialized in analyzing implants.
Both had defective valves and were leaking - one had 30 cc's less fluid than at implant ... and both were severely contaminated with microorganism growth ... 12 different organisms to be exact!
I gave a copy of the report to my explanting surgeon who in turn wrote a letter in support of my insurance appeal. He now too believed, after reviewing the report, that the implants were the cause of my symptomatic illnesses.
It has been almost a year and a half now since my explant, and I have unfortunately felt very little improvement.
I have had several infections in my rib cartilage which is still extremely painful.
I have also had chronic sinusitis for about 8 months and have had two sinus surgeries.
I have also started showing symptoms of both Lupus and MS.
In the mornings my hand are stiff and numb up to my elbows.
I went in January, 2004 to see a rheumatologist who has performed numerous tests.
On my first visit with him, he told me almost word for word what he figured my symptoms were and how they started ... this was even before ever seeing my medical records. Apparently he is very familiar with implants and the problems they have caused and he has seen it enough to know.
He claims that is is the silicone exposure (yes, every breast implant, even saline ones, are encased in silicone) causing all of the immune problems and more than likely it was the mold and bacteria that released into my body from the implants upon removal that has caused all of the sinus problems. I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, CFS, systemic rheumatic disease, rhuematiod arthritis, and silicone toxicity so far ... to name a few.
About 2 years ago, I began doing research on the internet on the subject of saline breast implants.
I joined a wonderful Support Group and I was shocked to meet so many other women who shared my same complications, concerns, fears, and hopes of recovery!
I realize now that I am one of the lucky ones ... in many ways.
So many women shared their stories of losing their boyfriends and even being deserted by their husbands when their breast implants ... then their health failed them.
Many of the women lost their jobs ... and their insurance!
I even learned that many women are not even able to get insurance after having breast implants!
I have had to take a medical leave of absence from my work which has put a terrible financial strain on our lives. Because of my debilitated health, I lost my job of six years.
I haven't got a clue how I will manage to help support my family but I haven't got a choice - trying to get my health back so my beautiful two old son can have a "real" mommy is the most important thing in my life. I feel very sad that in his few years he has been on this earth I have been sick. I get scared for the girls I hear getting breast implants as graduation presents or wedding gifts.
The risks are just too great in the long run ... no matter how good the benefits seem in the short run!
I was very happy to be interviewed for an MTV show first airing April 5, 2005.
Hopefully, the story of my daily hell may help to save some other young women from making the same mistakes I have made.
I have a great hope of leading others to the truth.
I thank God everyday for helping me to find the truth and helping me to get through this.
I hope I make it for the sake of my husband and child and family but I guess there is no guarantee as I have seen many of my "silicone sisters" fall.
I am determined to heal from this experience and will be sharing how I am able to accomplish this.
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