Mount Pleasant woman says breast implants caused serious health problems
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) - Maria Gmitro has been keeping track of all her medical records for the last four years. She has two binders packed full.
"There were so many doctor’s appointments that I needed to start keeping track of it,” she says.
Her medicine cabinet is just as organized. Gmitro says it's critical in her journey to regaining her health.
"This is a variety of supplements and medications and essential oils that I have been prescribed or told to use,” she said recently, as she looked at her cabinet.
In 2014, after extensive research and advice from health professionals, Gmitro got silicone breast implants.
“I was getting older. I was turning 40. We weren't having any more kids, I don’t know. A stupid, vain decision."
"Vain" she says because of the constant health hurdles she now believes the implants caused. Her decline started about six months after surgery.
“GI issues, bladder issues, I had a lot of breakouts. I started seeing doctors for that. A lot of pain in my neck and upper back. I was having numbness in my arms and my hands. "
That's not all. There was also memory loss, weight gain, severe fatigue. The teacher spent hundreds of dollars on doctors and even had to quit her job.
"One day of sitting in bed and Facebook suggested a page to me, ‘Healing Breast Implant Illness’ and I was like, 'What is this? What is this all about?'" she says. “I started reading and I felt just this is exactly what I have going on. I had no pain in my chest and there was no visual changes that I could notice, so no I was not connecting those dots."
Gmitro says neither did doctors. The mother of two was so certain the implants were responsible that she made the costly decision to have them removed.
"Who would have thought I would feel so good after having surgery, but I did," she said.
Thousands of other women have similar stories. Many have documented their journey on the Facebook page "Breast Implant illness and Healing by Nicole.'" Each say they saw multiple doctors and not one could explain their symptoms. That's because the FDA doesn't recognize "breast implant illness."
Doctor Kevin Delaney is a plastic surgeon at MUSC. He says this so-called illness has been discussed and researched by the FDA for 20 to 30 years.
"They have never found any direct correlation or link between implants and these disorders or diseases or auto immune disorders,” says Delaney.
“The challenge for us is if we cannot pinpoint a direct cause it is hard to make generic or medically backed recommendations for these women if we cannot find a cause."
WCIV asked the FDA for a response. They shared this statement:
“Although FDA generally does not regulate the practice of medicine, we do encourage patients and providers to communicate about the benefits and risks of breast implants. Choosing to obtain a breast implant is a very personal decision that patients and their providers should make based on individual needs and with the most complete information.
Although some women with implants may have experienced health problems such as connective tissue diseases (such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis), trouble breastfeeding, or reproductive problems, current evidence does not support an association between breast implants and these conditions.
The FDA constantly reviews data submitted by breast implant manufacturers in post-approval studies, reads adverse event reports filed in our medical device reports database, monitors medical literature and engages with patient advocates to stay aware of issues concerning breast implants.
If we have any updates to share about breast implants and any potential links to diseases or conditions, we will communicate that information to the public.”
Not good enough for Gmitro. She thinks the army of women battling identical issues should be enough.
"I am not a doctor, but I can tell you when I had them I was becoming sick, and having them removed I am becoming better."
She's now working with other women on meeting with the FDA. Her hope is they'll eventually recognize this as a real illness and provide a warning.
“It is not just the plastic surgeons that need to understand this. This needs to be understood by lots of doctors. If I could have walked in and said – and I did say – this is the only surgery I have ever had – they need to know to look for these things and know that it could be the implants that are causing [it]."
As for her health, its drastically improved since her removal seven months ago. Still, there's struggles. She blames lingering toxins.
"It didn’t take you overnight to get sick, so it's not going to take you overnight to get better,” she explains.
While she waits for continued healing, this wife and mother invests in her new sisterhood.
"Facebook saved my life. The torch is kind of being handed over, and I am trying to be a support for other women."