My name is Nancy Pratt. I had Dow Corning smooth silicone gel breast implants from 1990-2013. It’s common that women are pressured to get breast implants by a husband or boyfriend. When my partner suggested I get breast implants I responded “if I had that much money I’d get a medium format camera.”
I felt hurt and rejected, but with continued pressure coupled with low self-esteem I caved. It was a decision that would eventually cost me my health, and nearly my life.
In October 1990 we flew to Vancouver for my breast augmentation surgery. When placing the left implant the surgeon ripped an entire bundle of nerves so I was in a lot of pain from the start. The nerves took about six years to heal.
Immediately following augmentation I noticed my implants were really cold. They felt like gel packs over my heart and lungs. I constantly felt so cold I’d have to wear vests to stay warm.
The first time I hugged my children I realized we had plastic beach balls separating us. It broke my heart. On my 6-week follow-up appointment I asked the PS to remove the implants. He assured me they were safe and said removing them would be far more dangerous than leaving them in.
I decided I’d wait till my youngest daughter graduated high school to remove them. I didn’t want to risk my children losing their mother while they were young over such a senseless thing. By the time my youngest graduated I felt too ill to face the surgery.
Around 5-6 years after I got implants I started experiencing strange symptoms. The muscles on the entire left side of my body stopped working properly and I got a red measles-like rash on my torso and extremities. Later I developed masses in my armpits and the list of strange symptoms grew. My blood work was always ‘normal’.
By 2010 I had developed esophageal motility issues; dysphagia; laryngospasm; systemic fungal infection; interstitial cystitis; inflammation in my uterus; joint pain; muscle and connective tissue issues; symptoms of scleroderma; pain in my breasts and chest wall; neurological issues including numbness in my arms, fingers and feet; brain fog; respiratory illness; chronic sinus infections; sensitivity to environmental mold; chemical sensitivities; strange over-reactions to nearly all medications; uterine hemorrhage.
Though I didn’t know it then, my symptoms were commonly experienced by women with breast implants. I was virtually bedridden. I felt mortally ill, but doctors decided it was in my head - an all too common scenario. From that point I was broken in more ways, more times and more deeply than I could ever have imagined possible. I developed anxiety. I knew I was truly ill and that I was going to die if I didn’t get help. I felt completely abandoned medically. I was afraid I would die.
In 2013 a kind and brave young resident, who’s care I was under, looked me in the eyes and asked if I really believed there was something wrong. I told him I KNEW there was something wrong and showed him where I could feel it. An ultrasound diagnosed rupture of both implants. MRI indicated that rupture was contained within the capsule on the right side, but on the left silicone had migrated deeply into my chest wall. The MRI also revealed the exact places I’d shown the doctor I could feel something were exactly where the migrated silicone was.
Although we knew that there was rupture and migrated silicone you never know the full story until the surgeon opens you up. After the procedure the surgeon stressed multiple times, ‘it was really, really bad in there!’
Explant involved removing the implants, capsules, silicone soaked muscles, silicone granulomas, necrotized tissue, a large silicone filled mass. My capsules were severely calcified and my chest wall filled with acute man-made inflammation. I had silicone against my lung. There was no way to retrieve all of the silicone.
In 2013, after rupture had been diagnosed, I learned that the implants I’d gotten in 1990 were recalled. I was not notified. I had no idea the implants in me were at the center of a class-action lawsuit. They had a near 100% failure rate around the 5-6 year mark, which is exactly when mine ruptured.
When I began pursuing explant surgery I had intended to have my implants removed with no one other than my family and closest friends knowing. A conversation with my then 27-year old daughter changed my mind. Learning how many of her peers were already implanted, and that there were many more considering it, gave me pause. In the following weeks I learned, and was staggered by, just how prevalent breast augmentation had become.
Being silent was no longer an option.
In sharing my story of how I ended up getting breast implants and the length of time it took for rupture to be diagnosed, I want to be clear that I don’t blame my husband. I allowed myself to be implanted. Through this experience I’ve learned compassion and forgiveness for both of us. We’ve been married now for 28 years. And I don’t hold hard feelings toward the doctors who failed to diagnose rupture. Instead I work to educate women and doctors and lobby for changes that will better protect women from the harm breast implants can cause.
It’s my ultimate wish that women will stop being implanted. My wish is that we’d all just love and accept ourselves as we are.