My name is Rose. I am 57 years old and live in Nebraska.
After I remarried in 1990, I thought I needed to look younger, so I opted to get silicone breast implants made by McGhan, now called Inamed. I had talked to a plastic surgeon and he told me they were safe and they would last my lifetime.
I had been working in a clothing factory for three years at the time I got the silicone implants. I loved my job and had never missed a day of work due to illness.
Within four months of getting the implants I noticed I was aching all over and had developed headaches. I went back to the surgeon and told him I thought they were making me sick. He told me I was listening too much to the media and he saw no reason to remove them. I believed him and left them in.
I became more ill and the headaches became almost unbearable. I had so much pain that I had to quit my job. I had become so ill that I was put on Social Security Disability.
In the mid-nineties my nasal passages started burning and my nose was swelling shut, in addition to the horrible headaches. My GP sent me to a neurologist who did many tests and sent me to an ENT. I ended up having three sinus surgeries. Three different doctors all told me that something was inflaming my nasal passages. They told me that if I didn’t find out what my body was reacting to, they couldn’t help me. I went to an allergist and he found no allergies.
We had our house checked for any toxins. My husband checked our vehicles. By now, I was feeling much worse –dizzy and nauseated.
Over the next few years, I went to many doctors. I went to Mayo Clinic and they told me my illness had nothing to do with my implants. I went to Virginia Mason in Seattle, and Northwestern in Chicago. Nobody could find out what was wrong with me.
The last two or three years I became so ill I am almost bedridden. My nasal passages burn all the time and my headaches are constant. My legs and feet swell and I ache all over. My feet and legs burn and hurt so badly I can hardly walk. I am dizzy and nauseated. I have lost much of my short-term memory.
Over the last few years I have became intolerant of most chemicals. I can’t consume or breathe any chemical. When I am exposed accidentally, my nose swells shut, I feel nauseous, headache worsens, and my heart acts up.
In June of this year, I finally decided I was going to die if I didn’t do something. In August I had my implants removed. My left implant was ruptured, and the plastic surgeon said most of the silicone had leaked out, migrating into my chest and into my lymph nodes. She described it as “a sticky mess.” She also removed the lymph nodes with silicone in them. At that time she told me there was probably silicone in my liver, lungs and brain. The right implant was intact. I have no idea how long the left implant had been ruptured. I saw no difference in how I looked.
Through the years I have became unable to even take care of my home. Sometimes I am not able to fix meals for my husband. I spend many days in bed. Long ago I gave up on social events. My husband tells me I am actually much worse off than I realize. It’s just a struggle to survive.
If the doctors had not told me my illness was unrelated to my silicone implants, I would have had them out many years ago, and perhaps avoided much of the silicone leakage.
I think of how in 1991 the FDA decided not to take silicone gel implants off the market. It sent the clear message that silicone gel implants were probably OK.
I feel many of us have been the guinea pigs. And I feel we have proven that silicone is not safe because the implants can leak throughout our bodies. It’s too late to do much for women like me, but let’s please save the next generation. It is your responsibility to protect us, and hopefully you can restore my faith in our FDA.
This story was prepared for testimony before the FDA in October 2003.