My fate – The PIP implant scare

I recently wrote about my increasing fears that I may have been fitted with the French faulty PIP implants, in the middle of a worldwide health scare (click HERE to read)

At the time of writing the post, I was gearing up to call Transform (one of the

English: Silicone

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UK’s largest cosmetic groups) who have quite openly stated that PIP were their main provider of implants during the period of August 2003 untill September 2005! This discovery had sparked fear within me as I was pretty sure I had my operation back in 2005 or possibly that of early 2006.

Transform also stated that after these dates the PIP implant was still used but in as few as 100 cases out the thousands of operations that had been performed within its private hospitals up and down the country. This meant that if my surgery was actually 2006 rather than 2005, I stood a much grater chance of not being the carrier of two ticking time bombs.

 As I hit the publish button and my post went out into the blogosphere, I took ahold of my iPhone and dialled the free number for Transform. In so many ways I didn’t want to make that call, for weeks I had put it off trying to convince myself that surely, what I didn’t know couldn’t hurt me! Yet there was a possibility that I had been given a set of cheaply made “Fake” breast implants that could be leaking what is now said to be industrial filler & a fuel additive into my surrounding lymph nodes and blood stream! Who was I kidding, What I didn’t know couldn’t hurt me! Was I bloody serious? 

I don’t know what I expected from Transform. A polite and helpful representative answered my call, one who had likely spoken to a hundred worried women that day, all asking that same question, “Could you tell me what brand of implant I was given?” all longing for the same answers! The call centre was busy! The overlapping conversations from dozens of representatives could be clearly heard while the sound of ringing phones was present throughout. I wasn’t even sure of my operation date, not even the bloody year it had taken place, though I had estimations it wasn’t much to go on. 

 Maybe I expected to be told there and then, I just wanted it out the sodding way to be honest, nonetheless I wouldn’t hear my fate that day and was politely informed that my details would be passed to the hospital in which surgery was performed. I was told that my medical notes would then be obtained and the answer to my questioned answered. 

I was given a period of up to five days and then somebody would call me back! I thanked the representative before hanging up and proceeding with my day.

In so many ways I felt a sense of utter relieve, for I knew that if

English: Chest X-ray showing bilateral breast ...

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I had been told there and then on this very day, that yes, I was the unlucky receiver of these faulty man-made implants my day, week, month, would be ruined, the shopping and house work would not be done to the highest standards, only I would be sat worried whether these things called implants were still intact, whether or not my health had been compromised and lastly where I would find the thousands of pounds needed to get them removed and replaced (an unlikely prospect as a full-time mother and carer to a child with a disability who was no longer in any type of position to fund such actions)!

Then there was this other part of me, the part that felt angry at not being able to obtained the information. The prospect of a frazzled mind as I battled on jumping every time my phone rang displaying a number I didn’t recognise or worse with the caller id withheld (yes, I never answer withheld calls and was caught of guard by company salesmen and random charities over the coming days.)

Then just two days after having made the call, I returned home from the newsagent’s sat in my living room drinking coffee while catching up with the world’s news as my phone was unknowingly ringing on the charger upstairs in my bedroom. It wasn’t till an hour or so later I discovered Transform had called me, which I felt surprised at (given I’m used to chasing up anything and everything, and guessed I’d be calling them after the dreaded five-day wait). I went through a state of panic… “maybe it was so quick because I’m one of the unlucky ones” this and a host of other thoughts raced through my mind. A representative for Transform left me a message on my voicemail with a number to call her back! I must have stood there in a daze for a whole minute or two, my whole insides felt as if they were churning and twisting and about to drop out, huge butterflies fluttered (no, these were not the type you experience when you find that person you love, but the type you get when your about to hear bad news) There were only two possibilities, ‘I have, or I haven’t got PIP implants’ and the latter was what I so desperately needed to hear. I dialled the number left on my voicemail with a shaky hand, only to incur the dreaded beeping of an engaged tone over and over again. I paced the house consistently hitting the redial button to be greeted with that same beeping sound! Luckily after an hour or so (though it felt like forever) it finally rang!

I gave the lady on the other end of the phone my details and was told to hold for a minute, so she could pull up my notes. As I sat waiting I tortured myself with “what ifs’ as well as trying to assess her tone! Did she sound like a bearer of bad news? Then she spoke…

 “Sorry about that Claire, the system was just a little slow to upload”

 Me: “No problem”

 “OK, we called you today as we have the information you requested on Monday”

 Me: “OK….”

 “The relevant department have checked your notes and I’ve been told to assure you that NO, YOU WERE NOT GIVEN THE PIP IMPLANTS when you had your surgical procedure with us”

 Silence

 Representative: “Clare, are you there?”

 Me: Sniff, sniff, sob, sniff… Yes, thank you that’s a huge relief”

I had built myself up for the worse for so long that my emotions were now in a state of overload, and like a babbling baby I had become a sobbing mess!

 Of course I’ll be requesting access to my medical records to see it in black and white!  It’s not that I don’t believe them (I don’t think they would want to be in the middle of a new scandal, do you) it’s just you have to see these things for yourself, whether the news is good or bad, I guess it just closes a chapter.

 Although I had been given the best outcome possible, knowing it could have been something different altogether, having experienced such dread I still felt such sadness for the thousands of women that would be receiving that same phone call today and sadly not gaining the same outcome. 

Following the media coverage of the health scare, I was

Breast augmentation: Late-generation models of...

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pleased to discover that some progress is finally being made. It has emerged that the Government has released a statement stating that those women who received the faulty implants from the NHS will now be legible to have them removed free on the NHS. However there is no guarantees for the thousands of UK patients who received the PIP implants as patients of private cosmetic groups, though the Government did state that despite not being in a position to order private clinics to carry out the required procedures free of charge, it was expecting them to do so! Yet, I feel that expecting private firms to do the right thing really isn’t going to be enough! This basically means that nothing has changed for these women and those who have PIP implants (ruptured or not) will be faced with the huge cost associated with removal and replacement! what if that just can’t meet such cost? Who knows if their income has changed in the years since their first procedure, maybe like me they are still paying the credit card company that covered it! Big name cosmetic groups have previously stated that to carry out surgical procedures of this kind to such high number, at no cost to patients will simply send them into liquidation, therefore the prospects of them offering the service seems pretty unlikely regardless of the Governments expectations! Where does this leave these women?  No one should have to live their life with a dose of potentially dangerous poisons inside their bodies. Yes, we all know there is risk when opting to have breast implants, but no on ever thought that such revolutions would emerge! Is it fair to be left living waiting for a rupture or a serious complication? Women signing up for such operations had no clue that those very things now sat in their chest would be recalled as faulty dangerous and potentially explosive, did they!

Lastly… A Department of Health statement said: “The NHS will support removal of PIP implants if – informed by an assessment of clinical need, risk or the impact of unresolved concerns – a woman with her doctor decides that it is right to do so.

So… will it fall in the hands of the NHS eventually, or will the private firms be made to pay? Maybe women will be left to sink to the depths of depression, who knows? 

But ask yourself this… “If you brought a product approved and licensed to use here in the UK, yet, a few years later it’s recalled as potentially dangerous, would you want it replaced given you brought it with that healthy stamp of approval?” of course you would! Who wouldn’t? 

This isn’t a debate on why women choose to have breast implants… That has no relevance! It’s about paying for something that has been EU approved and licensed as safe to use for medical procedures, only to discover it something that actually belongs in your mattress… Not your body!

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One thought on “My fate – The PIP implant scare

  1. Oh Claire I am so happy that your implants were not PIP. I think it highlights how important it is to note when surgical procedures took place, to keep a diary or a file on your computer with events so in these instances it is easier to follow up.

    I think what this also highlights is how poorly equipment and implants are regulated. I used to work for Bupa, and the number of times patients would ring me saying “oh I am due to have spinal fusion is that ok?” and did not know what instrumentation was being put inside them was scary. Often on digging it would be something that wasn’t licensed for use, and we deemed experimental.

    There needs to be much tighter regulation and better patient awareness of surgical procedures and devices being used. Doctor doesn’t always know best, they are sometimes under undue influence from companies and other sources.

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