My Explantation Story

by Jeena

I have wanted to tell my story for a long time, but have been waiting for an nice ending. The end of my saga is still ahead of me, but it seems very important to add my story to this wonderful compilation of explant journeys.

Not all explantations are complication free, and to have an explantation site which does not tell examples of difficult experiences would be less than representative of what women may face. There are other good sites which show the many horrific photos of breast implant victims. I want women to make responsible decisions concerning their bodies and health. Had I known the tragedy I could possibly face, I would surely have taken a different path. Sadly, I didn't have this information. If it was out there, I surely did not know where to find it.

MY GOAL

My goal in sharing this saga, is the sincere desire to warn women about the dangers of implants, to urge timely explantation, and stress the importance of finding the right surgeon. If I could, I would shout warnings from the housetops and prevent healthy, beautiful young women from plunging headlong into pain, more surgery, complications, expensive revisions, deformity, financial hardhip and all the conditions I have lived in. My goal in sharing my personal experience is not to put terror in people, but to declare there is hope and help for nearly any situation.

I DESIRED A "LIFT"

Many of my friends had gotten breast implants, and I have to admit, there was once a desire to have them. However, one friend had problem after problem, surgery after surgery, and I had abandoned the idea of implants. Of course, I didn't think implants were necessarily dangerous, and thought her problems were unique to her personal body type. Still, the possibility of going through the same difficulties that she had experienced was enough to rule out breast implants. However, I was very much interested in a "lift".

In 1990, I decided I may need to see a Doctor about my desire to have a mammogram and "lift". After breastfeeding my children, and knowing I would not have any more, I was at the age I also needed a good breast examination and mammogram. I had never had one.

My mammogram was not very good. I was told I had unhealthy mammary tissue and if I did not have cancer, I was in a precancerous state. Having had cancer at another site 8 years earlier, I was advised to have a plastic surgeon remove the unhealthy inner tissue, while having a lift.


MY PLASTIC SURGEON

My husband and I had a consultation with a Plastic Surgeon who insisted I would need silicone breast implants in order to have a good result. We argued the point. We were not wealthy people and had many children and we told the Doctor that we could not afford any complications, further surgeries or implant replacements. He insisted this would not happen. We insisted I had been allergic to other "plastic type" items (earring posts, other jewelry, watchbands, IV tubing, etc.) He insisted implants were hyper-allergenic and it was impossible for me to have allergic reaction to them. We insisted I had experienced complications in other surgeries. He insisted I would be fine. We went home to think about it, and he left us with the resounding words, "You will not be happy with any surgery without implants. You will be so thrilled with your new breasts, and I promise you, when you are 90 and in the casket, those silicone implants will still be in your body and you will look young."

With all the positive claims, we decided to trust the Doctor and mortgaged our home to have the surgery. If the biopsy proved I indeed had cancerous cells in my breasts, insurance would reemburse us.

Thankfully, I had no cancer. Sadly, we had to pay for the surgery in entirety, putting hardship on our family.


MY BREAST AUGMENTATION

When I awakened from the surgery, I was in nearly the worst pain I had ever experienced. I will never forget the shock of my condition. Within a week, I experience a horrendous case of hives. My stomach was soon covered in a horrible rash. From the first morning post implantation, I had numbness and tingling in both hands. I began having insomnia immediately. The implants also did not sink into place, but stayed high on my chest. I felt as though they came up to my neck!

After I was healed externally, and quite displeased with the shape and placement of the implants, I returned to the surgeon. He informed me I would need a second surgery to move the implants into place properly. I remember feeling very grotesque and deformed.


MY SECOND SURGERY

So, again, I headed to the operating table. The surgeon did not lie. He did not charge me for the revision surgery, but we faced the realization that the hospital and operating room expenses were OUR responsibility. Again, we had to borrow more money. He did not replace the implants, but merely moved them down further. In my opinion, they still were too high, and had much the same appearance as "Rose's" implants.

The numbness and tingling did not cease. I began to pass out for no reason. My heart would occasionally race as though I had too much caffeine or had taken amphetamines. (I hadn't) The hives were horrible. They would start on my breasts, and I would have swollen, red, itching, hot breasts until antihistamines would kick in. There were times my husband had to hold down my hands to keep me from clawing them out. I continued to take antihistamines every day of my life. Sometimes that would not work, and I would have to go to the emergency room. I began to have to carry epenephrine shots.

You would think I would have attributed all the problems to the implants, but I was in total denial. The words of my plastic surgeon rang in my head "You won't want to look in the mirror if you do not have the implants. The result will be horrible without them." Not being able to afford them, and the fear of the outcome made explantation prohibitive for me. More than one doctor told me the risk was much greater to take them out, than to leave them in.


I FELT LIKE I HAD THE FLU ALL THE TIME

By 1994, I was unbelievably fatigued and felt as though I were coming down with a severe case of the flu every day of my life. The insomnia continued. It was not unusual for me to go days without having one wink of sleep. I felt like a walking "zombie". My memory was getting horrible.

Prednisone steripaks became a regular regiman, as my body became sicker and sicker. I was having allergic reactions to household cleaners, insecticides, plants, foods, medicines. I could no longer wear panties or anything with lycra. Anything that resembled a plastic, latex or silicone caused me to break out in a rash. Migraine headaches became impossible to control. The pain in my body was more than I could bear, and there seemed to be nothing I could do about it. Eventually, I was on Prednisone daily.


I KNEW WHY

I knew the silicone implants were the reason my entire life had changed. If I were to write of all the medical problems I had, this account of the last 12 years would be too long to read. I also developed asthma, shortness of breath, chest pain and strange fevers.

I wished I could turn back the hands of time and never gotten the implants. I did not have the money to have them removed. I joined the class action suit, in hopes of receiving enough money to have them removed properly and I waited. Every time it seemed the money was coming, there was another delay, another disappointment. I waited much too long. Now, even if the settlement money arrives, it won't touch the medical expense and lost wages I have lost.

Chronic pain was nearly unbearable. I had been diagnosed with connective tissue disease, lupus, and fibromyalgia. When my neck began to have excruciating pain, I was treated for fibromyalgia. When my shoulder joint began to have excruciating pain and completely frozen, I was still being treated for fibromyalgia. I was much too young to have severe joint or internal degeneration. I looked quite young externally, and it took a long time to finally get the diagnosis that I had degenerative osteo-arthritis due to connective tissue disease. By the time I found out the truth, I was told the only thing that could be done to help me was a complete shoulder replacement. I had suffered with this debilitating pain and handicap for years.

When the MRI results came, the Doctor looked at me in disbelief, saying "I can't believe these MRIs are YOU. The outside of your body certainly does not look like the inside of your body. You are a MESS."

Finally, I decided I could no longer wait on the implant manufacturer to compensate me for all the medical expenses, lost income, surgeries, pain and suffering. They had to be explanted. The thought of going one more day taking all of the medications and deteriorating further became more than I could bear. Now, on top of all the suffering, I also had severe depression. My life seemed totally ruined.

Besides being sick and aging before my time, my breasts weren't even that nice! They were too large, heavy, unnaturally shaped and only looked terrific in low cut outfits or with clothing. I could no longer bear the pain of a bra. The years of Prednisone had caused my body to be swollen and my face took on a round shape. I didn't even appear to be "me" anymore. Many times, I would sob uncontrollably, saying "I miss ME...I want ME back!"

As I researched explantation, I joined support groups, newsgroups, and searched endlessly for good doctors, for a good surgeon, and for answers that could turn my life around.

One female doctor was recommended over and over. Dr. Lu-Jean Feng was my choice and I was determined to have her do my explantation no matter what it took to get there. I live far away, and used my Social Security Disability back pay to go to Cleveland for my explantation. Although I was worried about possible complications, I was much more frightened to leave them in one more day. I placed my complete trust in Dr. Feng, and the Lord to guide her hands and give her wisdom.

Dr. Lu-Jean Feng

(CLICK PHOTO TO SEE HER WEBSITE)


MY COMPLICATIONS

Unfortunately, I am one of the victims who faced complications. Had I not had Dr. Feng, I am certain my explantation would have resulted in far worse tragedy. As suspected, the tissue around my implants was not healthy. The blood supply to my left breast was compromised due to the implants and capsules. The pathology report proved it was medically necessary to have them removed, with words like "foam cell reaction" to the silicone, and "synovial metaplasia". I, indeed, was in a constant state of allergic reaction. By the time I went, 6 different physicians agreed I needed to be explanted.

Because of my unhealthy breast tissue, lack of good blood supply and connective tissue disease, my left breast did not heal properly. The bandages came off and revealed severe bruising and damage. Over a 7 week period, I had to apply acidic bandages, pulling off dead skin, and revealing new, pink skin behind it. It was painful and discouraging, but I followed the instructions completely and took the antibiotics. Everything appeared to be fine, when one day, a large scabby area on the vertical scar came off with the bandage. Within a few days, the vertical incision split open and I had a huge, cavernous hole! I had necrosis. About half of my inner fatty tissue had died.


I HAD NECROSIS!

I went to my local physician's office. He debrided the hole, packed it with gauze, and gave me instructions on how to pack it. I headed back to Cleveland with this painful hole in my breast. The breast had become hard, deformed and swollen and the pain was nearly unbearable. I thought I would go back into Dr. Feng's office and have the hole sewn shut.

I will never forget the words I heard. I can't quote everything, because I was crying so hard and it is almost a blur. I heard words like "possible mastectomy, infection, necrosis, reconstruction, surgery." I thank the Lord everyday that I had Dr. Feng as my Doctor, because her kind compassion, honesty, gentleness, and expertise were a great comfort to me. I often wonder what I would have done, had I gone to the wrong surgeon.

Within 2 days, I was back in surgery and expected to come out with no breast. Dr. Feng was able to save much more of my breast than she expected, and did a phenomenol job saving all the tissue possible.

No doubt, I will return to Dr. Feng next summer for more revision or reconstruction. More decisions will be made at that time. But in the meantime, I have fought infection and won. My breast is much smaller and the grief I have gone through is like mourning a death. My right breast is nearly perfect, for which I am grateful. I wish so much I had gone to her many years sooner! I can now see that my first surgeon was so very wrong about needing implants to look nice. I feel so betrayed. I lost 12 productive years of my life.


MY HEALTH IS IMPROVING

My physical symptoms continue to improve. I can't say I have been restored to my former health, but I can say I have improved. Even with all I have been through, I can honestly say I NEVER regret being explanted. Now, I have hope. Before, I had none. Now, I see continual improvement in my condition. Before, each day I became sicker and more handicapped. The first thing I exclaimed after my explantation while still in the recovery room was , "I can FEEL my HANDS!" I hadn't had feeling in them in years.

My story is not completed, but because I have the most wonderful, skilled surgeon in the world, I have every reason to believe my breast will again be beautiful. If anyone can do it, Dr. Feng can. If she can't, then I truly believe it can't be done.


IT FEELS SO GOOD TO HAVE THEM OUT

There is nothing quite as exhilerating as waking up to YOUR OWN body after having explantation. The weight is lifted from my chest, both mentally and physically. The pressure is gone, and I am so glad to have my own body back.

Had I waited for explantation until I received my settlement, I truly believe I would have died. Had I waited, my explantation complications would have been worse. Some have waited so long, there is little they can do to improve their appearance. All options are gone for many.

My message to anyone researching implantation or explantation is:

  1. 1. Don't get breast implants. The risk is too costly, in every way.
  2. 2. If you are considering explantation, don't wait too long and make certain you find a qualified plastic surgeon! I cannot over emphasize this point. Waiting too long may well cost you your breast or your life.


MY PHOTO DIARY

I will include some of the photos of my experience, but I cannot give you the final outcome until I my surgeries are completed. Below you may see the photos post explantation and the progression of my healing. Check back, because I fully expect to have the final photos and a happy ending to my explantation story.

12 days after explantation

Bruising is beginning to fade, most of the dead outer skin has come off

Post explantation Surgery-15 days after

I had complications, but it appeared to be healing fine.

30 Days Post Op

Most dead tissue is off, but vertical scabs pulled off with acidic bandage. My breast is sore and beginning to swell.

7 Weeks Post Explantation

The hole has gotten much worse. My entire breast was swollen, hard and painful. I had to return to Cleveland for help.

Aug. 1 after second surgery

Half of my breast tissue had to be removed, due to necrosis. I am now waiting for further correction. I feel fortunate to have a left breast, but developed an infection and high fever shortly after this photo was taken..

September 15

My breast is healing, but getting smaller as the swelling goes down. Most of the outer side is missing. I will definately need more surgery when I am able to have it. Revision surgery will probably be in the summer of 2002.

Taken Nov.15

Left Breast beginning to soften and round outThe hard mass is softening and shrinking

Nov. 15, 2001 nearly 4 months post explantation


The tissue is beginning to soften an drop on the left outer side


CONSIDER THIS

If you are considering breast implants, consider the possibility of rupture, revision surgery, possible complications, explantation, possible explant complications and do not underestimate the importance in finding a qualified plastic surgeon who is capable of dealing with any situation that arises.

The physical, mental and financial cost of having breast implants has been the worst ordeal of our lives. My ordeal is not over, but I have confidence, that with Dr. Feng's expertise, I will be another explantation success story. Even though I have experienced complications, I have never been sorry I have had the implants removed. If you would like more information about breast implants, please visit my website at:

Jeena's Page


I have more photos available if you request a more detailed photo account of my explantation progress and necrosis

Email Jeena