I’m a 29 year old woman who got McGhan textured saline implants in 1996 for cosmetic reasons. About a year later, the problems started. Although I’d not had health problems in the past, in 1997 I developed a number of allergies. In January of 1999, I was rushed to the emergency room with severe abdominal pain. At the time they diagnosed me with urinary and vaginal infections and sent me home. But the pain never got better and the infections never went away. I had polyps and infections. Last April my skin all over my body started to burn, it felt like burning inside my veins, and my joints were tremendously painful. I went to several doctors, and my blood work all came back as normal.
In May I went for a mammogram, which came back fine. But within three days of the mammogram, I felt horrible. I had extreme burning and a sense of strong pressure in my chest, particularly around and behind my implants. My eyes and mouth were extremely dry and soon after I noticed my hair falling out in clumps. I was so fatigued that I couldn’t even get myself something to eat and soon found myself out of work. Emotionally, this was difficult for me to deal with because I’ve always been a healthy and active person. I rarely even had a cold, even in the middle of flu season! Now, at 28, my body was falling apart.
It got worse. By July I was so weak that I could barely get up to use the bathroom or get a drink. I was diagnosed with extremely dry eyes. Since 1998, my eyeglass prescription has changed three times. Before that my prescription changed only once in 4 years. It seemed like I couldn’t remember anything anymore. I would get up from the couch to go get a tissue and by the time I got to the bathroom door, I would have no idea what I was doing or getting. I would often become cold and nothing seemed to be able to warm me up. For instance, I remember feeling like my feet were freezing and deciding to put on a pair of socks and wrap a blanket around them. Two hours later, they still felt cold. Even a heating blanket wouldn’t warm me up. My aches and pains were so awful.
Last August, I decided to remove my implants. I just wanted to feel better. When I was explanted in September, I noticed some of my symptoms going away. My hands weren’t swelling anymore, all my chest pains were gone, and although I am still really tired all the time, I began to be able to do more things for myself. I still have health problems and I still can’t work, and at the age of 29, find myself with no income and no way to take care of myself. I thank God for my family, friends and my boyfriend who have been supporting me through this, both financially and emotionally. Without their help, I would be homeless. I’m glad I’m getting better, but it’s just not quickly enough. I would have loved to come to the meeting but my health prevents me from doing so.
Shirl’s testimony before the FDA Advisory Panel in March 2000 was read by Gwen Lewis.