After having my last child, I was left with an umbilical hernia, loose skin and separated muscles. She had been a whopping 9 + pounder (C-section), pretty big for my 5ft small frame. I decided to get my stomach fixed and waited until she was through nursing. I was very nervous about plastic surgery.
No one in my family had ever done it, but I was self- conscious about my stomach and wanted to enjoy swimming again with my children. I got the name of a very reputable surgeon in Atlanta (which is where I live) and went for a consultation.
He was a very nice man and had pictures in his office of his visits to struggling countries to perform surgery on children. That pretty much sold me.
During my consultation we talked about my stomach and then I asked about breast augmentation. My reasoning at the time was if I was going to get the tummy fixed, I might as well have the saggy breasts fixed. I had studied information about breast implants for a long time, so I was pretty confident I knew all the ups and downs as far as local complications, etc. I had read the stories about the silicone gel problems but thought those issues had been corrected by the use of saline. I did not know that the shell of all implants is made of silicone. They don’t tell you these things during the sales pitch.
I was excited about the surgery but still a little nervous about getting breast implants. I debated back and forth and decided to go for it. My husband didn’t want me to do it, but I assured him I would be just fine. After all, I was in perfect health.
My day came and the surgery went well, March 2003. The tummy tuck was performed and he was able to use that incision to place the implants. I had very little pain and was very excited about all the new clothes I would buy and would finally be able to have some cleavage.
A few days later after surgery I was resting in bed and suddenly my heart started beating like it was going to burst out of my chest. My mother-in-law was with me and we both thought maybe it must be because of the surgery, the drugs, etc. Over the next few days, it continued and I started to get worried. The beats were timed about 120-130 beats per minute.
I couldn’t figure out what would be causing this. I wasn’t nervous or anxious. I decided it had to be because of surgery, and just tried to forget about it.
It didn’t get better. A few days later I finally got so dizzy I called my husband and he took me to after care. By the time we got there, the beats had gone down to about 101 per minute. I had an EKG, which was normal.
The heart arrhythmia continued on and off. Sometimes I would get a reprieve of a few weeks, but it would always come back. I thought it was just something quirky to live with. I did have a flash in my mind that it could be the implants, but dismissed it after being assured by my doctors it couldn’t possibly be.
I thought all would be fine until a few weeks later I was driving to work and my left arm suddenly felt very heavy. I could barely lift it. I was about 8 weeks post op at this time. I ignored the sensation and within a few weeks the entire left side of my body including face would go numb and tingle and I would have muscle twitches. I was absolutely terrified at this point. There is no other sensation like it that I’ve ever known. I could be sitting down and it would feel like pin pricks or stabs in my face and throat. My throat would go numb and it would be difficult to speak. I would be walking down a hallway and my leg would go numb, causing me to bump into walls.
By the third month I was so sick that I never returned to my surgeon for a follow up. He had told me he had never had any problems with the saline implants. I felt time was running out. I was busy getting MRIs, blood drawn, you name it, tested for MS, etc. All tests were normal except for a positive ANA 1:80, signifying that my body was reacting to something. My doctors were puzzled. They didn’t feel it was the implants but did note it was strange that all of this began after getting them.
I prayed to God for help. I found two web sites, www.explantation.com and the Saline Support Group at Yahoo and later saw a plastic surgeon on the internet removing moldy implants from a patient. I made an appointment with that surgeon, hoping she could tell me what was happening. I saw her in September, 6 months post op.
She examined me and told me things about implants and autoimmune illness that I never knew. She suspected I had a subclinical infection around the left implant causing an “atypical neurological” illness. She said my positive ANA was significant, unlike my other doctors.
She prescribed antibiotics. But despite the medication I started to break out in hives on my legs for no reason. By December I started getting dizzy spells and was afraid to drive. The numbness and tingling were worse. I would lay in bed at night curled in a fetal position and literally beg God to let me live another day to raise my babies. I was terrified. The plastic surgeon was sure it was my implants and wrote me a letter of medical necessity to get them out. By March 2004 I was so ill I scheduled surgery with her anyway.
All through this I continued to work, out of desperation to try to live a normal life. Sometimes I would be so dizzy driving into work, I would have to hang my head out the window. Some days I had to work from home instead.
It was a four hour surgery to remove the implants and capsules as intact as possible. At this time, there aren’t too many plastic surgeons who know how to do this properly and it’s critical to find someone who knows what they are doing.
Three months after my implants were removed, I felt about 70% better. The heart arrhythmias haven’t returned since surgery. My energy level is fantastic. A few days after surgery I felt like a fog had been lifted from me. I had not had any more dizzy spells. I still had some tingling and muscle twitches. My doctor did a hair analysis and found that I had tin toxicity. The tin is used as a catalyst in the implants. Maybe I had moderate levels to begin with; I don’t know. But I do know that tin can cause degenerative nerve disease.
It has now been 7 months and I feel about 90% better. The flares are getting further apart. I still have some weird sensations on the left side of my face. I have muscle twitches almost every day.
I sent my implants for testing. They reported that both implants were leaking, the left implant had Aspergillus (fungi) and staph growing in it. Both valve caps were defective in closing, so I guess that’s how the bacteria got in there.
I am so much better, but I still have a long way to go, and so much uncertainty about my future health.
If you are considering saline implants, I hope you have read my story. It is my humble opinion that they are not safe enough. You have no way of knowing if you will have a reaction to them. There is no test you can take beforehand.
If you decide to get them, please make sure you have enough funds set aside for complications such as mine. This situation caused extreme hardship to my family, and we are just now starting to recover. If you would like to write me, I can be reached here.