My guest on this episode is Don Dupuis. After getting a hip implant at age 50, he thought it would lessen the pain of the osteoarthritis that was building in his hip. His doctor in Sussex, New Brunswick, recommended that he get the surgery as soon as possible. The surgeon chose a Wright CONSERVE metal-on-metal resurfacing system.
After three months, Don went back to work and continued on with his daily activities. Most implants are supposed to last 15 to 20 years, so it should have been a while before Don would have to start thinking about a revision.
This once-active, long-distance truck driver and avid Harley enthusiast didn’t expect that one surgery would still haunt him several years later and leave him disabled, unable to go back to work and barely able to do daily activities. On this episode, Don shares his experience and advocates for hip patients to be aware of their implants.
After the initial resurfacing Don said everything seemed fine. He had minor issues with range of motion, but nothing else to speak of.
One day, four years later, he and his wife decided to take his motorcycle out for a ride with friends. They pulled over on the side of the road for a break, and suddenly Don was unable to keep the bike up and it fell over. After getting the motorcycle back up, he realized there was something wrong.
“[My leg] felt spongy in the heel. I couldn’t move it. So the wife had to put the kickstand on, and I sort of hobbled around the bike, holding onto the bike. I went, ‘I think there’s something wrong with my leg,’ and couldn’t figure out what it was. I tried to walk, and no way! Down I went.”
After Don made it to the hospital by ambulance, they told him his femur had broken – along with the pin in his implant. It was a long day that included emergency revision surgery. This time, he was given a complete hip replacement. Doctors left the metal cup from the Wright CONSERVE in and added a DePuy ball and stem.
Again, Don went back to trying to continue with his life, but a mere 3 years after his first revision surgery, he suffered from complications once again.
In 2012, Don suffered from weakness in his leg and pain so terrible he needed a strong dose of morphine to keep it under check.
Don recalls a conversation with his doctor: “When I started taking [morphine], I had to call my doctor and say, ‘Well, we’re going to have to change [the dose] from 12 to 8 hours.’ He goes, ‘Why’s that?’ ‘Because,’ I said, ‘after 8 hours, I’m in tears.'”
Not only was Don unable to work or even get around, but the muscles in his legs were deteriorating. Doctors kept telling him that his hip was fine.
This time, Don decided to do his own research into his hip implant. Through Drugwatch.com, he was able to find enough information to start his research. This was where he found out about metal-on-metal implants and metallosis – a condition where metal particles flake off an implant and into the blood and tissue. He read information on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health Canada websites warning about metal-on-metal implants.
He learned from Drugwatch that he could request his medical records. So he did that, noted the brand of his implant and learned that it was a metal-on-metal device. Through persistence with his doctor, he was able to get a cobalt and chromium blood test. What he found was astonishing, and the doctor repeated the test twice to verify the results.
A normal chromium or cobalt level may vary depending on the unit of measurement, but in Don’s case, the reference for normal was 1.90 – 5.80 nmol/L for chromium and 0.51 – 6.80 nmol/L for cobalt. Don’s measurements were 531.13 nmol/L and 298.33 nmol/L, respectively – measurements far above normal.
Abnormally high levels of cobalt and chromium can cause a number of issues, such as:
Don found out about the results of the blood test soon after having a second hip revision, and he decided to take it a step further. This time, he searched the Internet for hip lawsuits.
There are thousands of lawsuits filed against the makers of defective hip implants in the United States, including Wright Medical. Companies like Stryker, Biomet and Johnson & Johnson face lawsuits in both federal and state courts.
Don decided to contact a local product liability attorney in Canada, who immediately took on his case against Wright.
In closing, Don says that people need to be aware of their hip implants, and if they are having problems they should get a blood test. “Knowledge is everything,” he said. “Look if you’ve got anyone that’s a family member, or something like that, that’s had a metal-to-metal implant in say the last 12 years, tell them to get checked.”
Last modified: May 18, 2017
Michelle Michelle: Welcome to Drugwatch Radio. I'm your host, Michelle Llama. Joining me on the show today is Don Dupuis. When he was just 50 years old, his doctor recommended a hip-resurfacing surgery, with a metal on metal implant called a Wright Conserve. Don didn't know that metal on metal implants have a higher rate of complications and may require additional surgeries to fix. After suffering from several complications, Don found Drugwatch.com and other medical websites where he learned about metallosis, a condition caused by metal implants flaking particles into the tissue and blood. He also saw that there were lawsuits filed against Wright Medical. This gave him the information to ask his doctor for a cobalt/chromium blood test. What he found was that his levels were far above normal. Don was never told about the risks and had had two revision surgeries because of complications. Now he can no longer work and has trouble doing even the simplest things because of constant pain and muscle wasting in both legs. He made it his mission to try and spread the word about these metal implants and the importance of getting a blood test to check for metallosis. Don joined me today by phone from New Brunswick, Canada, to share his experience.
Michelle: When did you start experiencing problems? Which one is it, your right hip or left hip?
Don: It was my left hip and it was back in late 2004. I started having problems with my leg a little bit. I went to the doctor and they did a couple of x-rays. Actually, they didn't do x-rays. One doctor said, “Well, it's because you're a truck driver and you don't exercise enough.” So for six months I kept doing these exercises and it started getting worse. My health was starting to lock up on me. I couldn't figure out what was going on. Finally, I went to him and he said, “I still think you got to do more exercising, but if you need a second opinion.” I said, “Yeah, I do want a second opinion.” When the orthopedic surgeon saw me and I told him what happened, he was looking through my files and he went, “Have they ever done an X-ray?” I said no and he just shook his head. He said, “You're going for one right now.” He ordered one right away. Within an hour, he was going, “You have osteoarthritis, and I recommend that you have surgery. We're not sure if it would be resurfacing or full hip replacement until we get in there.”
Michelle: This was before you got the implant put in. This is what led up to it.
Don: Oh yeah. I had to absorb that, so I got in the truck and drove about 3,000 miles. I did little investigating on the computer. I went, “Well, gee, maybe I should.” At that time he had told me I would want to get in as soon as possible because the wait is six months.
Michelle: Yeah, and you can't be going around with that hip.
Don: When I actually did end up going, they again told me after they did more x-rays, they couldn't tell me how much damage there is until he gets in there. He said it would either be a resurfacing or it will be a full implant.
Don: When I woke up the next day, that was the first thing that I asked: “What did you end up doing?” He said, “We ended up doing a resurfacing.” I thought, OK. I was in the hospital for three days or something like that and then they send you home. Then I was off for about – the first couple of days I was pretty bad off, obviously. Then it was three months later and I was able to go back to work. I went right back to work. The only thing I noticed with it was, you know how you put one leg over top of the other, like crossing your legs? I couldn't do that anymore with my left leg. Even putting on socks, I had to bend over to put the socks on. Of course, I was 210 pounds at that point. I noticed after a while there was always a little bit of pain with it but nothing major.
Michelle: Real quick, I don't mean to interrupt you, but before all this happened, did the doctors tell you what to expect with the implant, did they say you might have a little discomfort or did they prep you?
Don: Oh yeah. They did say after the operation there are some things you are not going to be able to do anymore.
Michelle: So you were prepared?
Don: That was the only thing I really noticed. I just couldn't get my leg up high enough to get my sock on. Then after that there was no real discomfort. What ended up happening was, my wife and I were on our Harley the weekend I was coming home. We were going out to a rally. A lot of my friends were going there and I said we might as well go. We jumped on the bike and started heading. We just got across the Nova Scotia border, ironically, this is how this happened. We just went by the exit for the hospital which is right beside the highway in Nova Scotia. Got over and I thought I would pull over because the wife smokes. I told her I would pull over her and you could have a cigarette and I can do a quick inspect of our stuff on the bike. As soon as I pulled over, the bike had stopped and I put my leg down. All of a sudden it felt like the wife was getting off, and I think I said something like what the heck are you doing? And all of a sudden, bang! The bike went over.
Michelle: Oh no! The bike had tipped.
Don: Yeah. We got the bike back up. Then I realized there's something wrong with my leg. It felt spongy. It felt spongy in the heel. I couldn't move it. The wife had to put the kickstand on and I sort of hobbled around the bike, holding on to the bike. I went, “I think there's something wrong with my leg.” I couldn't figure out what it was and I tried to walk. No way. Down I went.
Michelle: Oh my goodness. That must have been really scary. Was it?
Don: Oh, it was! I thought I broke my leg. Anyway, the hospital is right there. We phone and an ambulance came and picked me up on the highway.
Michelle: Thank goodness for that.
Don: They took me back to the hospital and after several hours of being there, because I had to wait for an x-ray technician to come in. They did x-rays and then all of a sudden they're telling me my femur broke.
Michelle: Oh, geez.
Don: They did the operation that night, I think. I was the last operation. I think he got me in around midnight or something like that. All I remember is it was a new doctor and he had said to me, “He says, ‘I got one part here, but I'm hoping the other part comes in by the time I do the operation.’ ” I'm going, “Boy, that didn't sound good.”
Michelle: No, that doesn't [laughs].
Don: I was right out of it. It was the next day, when I woke up they did a full hip implant. I didn't even really know what had happened with the other one.
Michelle: Real quick, with the resurfacing, was that the Wright Conserve that they used in there? Did they use the Wright product when they did the hip resurfacing?
Don: Actually, what they had put in was the Conserve Plus Cup.
Michelle: Gotcha. OK, so they did that then the resurfacing.
Don: And the Conserve Plus Femoral Resurfacing Component.
Michelle: Gotcha. OK. That was the first thing and then you had that fracture.
Don: When he did the full hip implant, what they had done was they left the cup in and they put the DePuy. What they did was put the DePuy. After the surgery, I still didn't know what they had put in. Finally, I started looking at all this stuff. Like what happened was, this new hip they put in back in 2009. That's when they replaced this. So I went from the operation in 2005 to 2009, when they did the full hip replacement.
Michelle: It was only four years, though. It's not supposed to happen that quick.
Don: It's not supposed to break either.
Michelle: No. It's not. Your femur broke, that's horrible.
Don: And where it broke, it broke right where they put the pin in to hold that part that goes into the cup. That's where it broke, right through there. The pin just popped right out, but see I didn't know any of that.
Michelle: They didn't tell you anything about it either.
Don: Oh no. They don't tell you why, they just said, “Oh, it broke.” I thought well that's something that might have happened due to the osteoarthritis or whatever.
Michelle: You start to explain it away with other things. You don't think it could be the product.
Don: Exactly. Anyways, what ended up happening there was this new one they put in, the DePuy arm, they left the Conserve cup in there. He looked at it and it was still in there good and they didn't want to take it out. At that point, I still didn't know what they had put in there.
Michelle: Exactly. They weren't really telling you.
Don: No, even if they had told me, I probably wouldn't have known.
Michelle: Oh, yeah because you were on painkillers and all kinds of things right?
Don: They told me a bunch of stuff probably and I probably just said, “Yeah, OK.” Again, three months after, I was back to work. Everything was working fine. It seemed like, basically the same as the resurfacing. It was the same. I couldn't lift my leg but so far and stuff like that, but I could walk fine.
Michelle: Yeah. You were OK at that point, right?
Don: Well, then what ended up happening was back in 2012 I started getting muscle wasting in my left leg. Of course, being a truck driver, I couldn't hold the clutch down anymore. So they put me on a short term disability and I went to the doctor. They couldn't understand what the muscle wasting was from. I told them, I said there was something going on with my hip too. Every once in a while it feels really sore. They took X-rays, and that, and they couldn't find anything. They said everything looks fine. It ended up, it got to the point where I was off for about almost a year, actually it was a year. At that point, I was off work for a year and the insurance company sent me to an orthopedic surgeon in another city that's about an hour away, which was Munson, New Brunswick. Now this surgeon, he looked at the X-rays and everything else and he said, “It looks like you have a couple of bulged discs.”
Michelle: He started looking at your spine as opposed to the hip.
Don: I moved my hip around and you could feel it crunching in there.
Michelle: Oh wow.
Don: He looked at me and said, “How long has that been doing that?” I said, “For about seven months now.” He did up a report for the insurance company. In the report, he also mentioned that I should see my orthopedic because he wasn't my orthopedic surgeon. I should see my orthopedic surgeon for a possible hip revision. And then he put down something: possible Zimmer implant. I was looking at it and I thought, “What the heck is a Zimmer implant?”
Michelle: And you're wondering why that is important, right? Because you were making notes about this.
Don: Yeah. I get on a website and actually I think I got on yours, too, at the same time. I noticed there were lawsuits against Zimmer That is what started me going. I was looking at this stuff going, “What's going on here?” After checking a few websites, that's when I started getting into your website. I was going, “Wow. There's an awful lot of stuff going on.” Then I think I read something on yours, someone saying that you could actually get your medical records. What I did was, I phoned the hospital here and I said, “I would like to get my medical records.” I told them exactly what I wanted. I said I wanted the surgeon's sheet that he has that says what the implants are. When I came home, again, I got on your website and I said, “Wow. There is a lot of stuff going on in the state.” What I did was, I phoned this lawyer and I told him what was going on. The next day, they phoned me back and they said, “We're going to start one for you.”
Michelle: Yeah, because for your particular implant, there are still things going on, especially here. I know lawyers here are taking on cases, too. It's definitely a problem. . . . We're going to take a quick break and be back with more Drugwatch Radio. . . .What was going on with your hip at this point when you were doing all of the checking around? What problems were you having at that point?
Don: I was starting to notice at night, my leg would just start going crazy. It ended up I couldn't even sleep with my wife anymore because I was up and down all night. They were trying to get me on the proper pain meds. For almost six months, I was going, “This is crazy. Whatever you're giving me, it's not working.” Finally, they put me on morphine. It's time release and I was supposed to be doing it every 12 hours. When I started taking this stuff, I had to call my doctor and say, “We're going to have to change that from 12 to 8 hours.” He goes, “Why's that?” I told him, “That after eight hours, I'm in tears.” They did make me an appointment to see my orthopedic surgeon. Ironically, see, again, I was on your website, and I'm checking other things. I started seeing this chromium/cobalt stuff.
Michelle: That's when you started wondering about that.
Don: Then I noticed that the resurfacing units were chromium and cobalt. When I did that first revision surgery, when they left that Conserve A cup in there, well that was chromium and cobalt.
Michelle: Yes, it sure was.
Don: I just wondered what all this was about. Finally, I started seeing different things and I went on the FDA site and they had a warning. I went on our Health Canada site, they have a warning. I'm sitting there going, really? I started reading it and they're saying they sent a letter to all orthopedic surgeons in Canada, if they have any patients they have worked on that have a metal to metal implant, they should be being tested for chromium and cobalt, maybe six months and twelve months after.
Michelle: Definitely to follow up with you to make sure you are OK.
Don: Exactly. That's what started me. Then I went to my family doctor and this one was hilarious. I went to him and I said, “I'd like to get a cobalt test.” He goes, “I don't think there is one.” I looked at him and said, “There must be because they are doing them in the States.” He sent me for a test and what ended up happening was he sent me for a heavy metals test. That's checking for copper, and this and that. What ended up coming back was, it showed my copper levels were high and that could be your drinking water or another disease, I can't remember what it's called. He was going to start setting up an appointment for, in case it is this disease. They just give you a pill and it is supposed to take the copper back out of your system, but it takes a year. I said to him, “Maybe we should check my wife too, to make sure it's not the water.” Her tests came back negative. I thought, well wait a minute. I'm looking at this test and it doesn't say anything about titanium or chromium or cobalt, so I checked a little bit further. I went back to him and said, “I think we did the wrong test. The test we were supposed to be doing was for chromium and cobalt.” He set up a blood test for me. I think he had already checked and found out they can do it.
Michelle: Now when you talked to him about this test though, did you tell him you were concerned about your hip?
Michelle: So he kind of knew why you wanted the test. Was he kind of skeptical about the fact that you thought it was your hip? Did he kind of act like, “I don't know about that?”
Don: Definitely. He just did it to probably shut me up. The first test that I did, they actually messed it up. The second one I went for, by the time they got the results, I'm in the hospital. I've just had my hip surgery, another revision.
Michelle: This is the second revision now that you've had.
Don: Yes, that's the second revision. I think it was like two days after I had the revision, My wife calls me and says, “Oh, your family doctor had called and said I have to go for another blood test.” She thought they had messed it up again. I went down and told them, there is nothing I'm going to be able to do for at least three weeks to a month because I just had surgery. I was at home. Finally, I had got to the point where I said I'll just drive myself up. I think it was a month. I went up, I went into his office and he just gave me the sheet to go over and get the blood test again. I went over again, thinking they probably messed it up again. I'm sort of joking with them and said, “I hope you guys get it right this time.” It was actually three weeks later, my doctor was on holiday. I went up to the hospital and asked for the blood test results. They actually gave me photocopies of it. I was looking at it and it just blew me away when I saw it. Then I realized it said at the bottom, “Test repeated and result verified as correct.”
Michelle: The first time they said, “This can't be right.” That's why they tested you again, but the first test was right.
Don: Exactly. That's what my doctor told me when he finally came back and he saw the test. He said, “They thought they had false positives.”
Michelle: Yeah, because it was so crazy.
Don: Yeah, because it was so high. Like I said, when you saw the ones I sent you and they have your reference range from 1.90 to 5.80 for the chromium, and my chromium was 531.3 and cobalt is supposed to be 0.51 to 6.80 and my cobalt is showing 298.33.
Michelle: Way over safe levels.
Don: I don't know whether I was setting a world's record here or not.
Michelle: I think there is a lot of people who don't even know to get the tests. They probably don't even know they are walking around with that kind of metal in their blood. But, yeah and I'm listening to your story here and it sounds like you had to do so much work on your own. And if you didn't?
Don: I'm becoming my own expert on this.
Michelle: And, again, we appreciate it, because you are helping other people go and start to look on their own, too, which I mean it's kind of sad that they have to do it.
Don: Exactly. I've even been sending reports to our local TV stations and our national TV stations and everything else. I've sent it to W5 and whoever else and they don't seem to be responding yet.
Michelle: They certainly will. When you started doing some digging too, you realized this was a global thing. Right? It was everywhere. It wasn't just in Canada.
Don: Exactly. When I sent you that link on that one that was in Australia.
Michelle: Yes, the walking wounded.
Don: That was the one that really, really hit home.
Michelle: It did.
Don: Some of the stories there almost brought tears to my eyes.
Michelle: It's horrible. I mean a lot of people's lives are essentially just ruined from these things.
Don: Oh, they are.
Michelle: And you, for instance, you do a lot of stuff. You say you ride your Harley. You were a long distance truck driver, and all that stuff changed, right? Can you still ride your bike?
Don: No, no I can't. I can barely drive my truck, my personal truck.
Don: I have muscle wasting after this surgery. I had muscle wasting on the left side, and I had numbness from the knees right down to the toes. Two days after the surgery, I thought he had fixed whatever it was, because I actually had feeling in there. What ended up happening was, a week after the surgery, that came back on my left side. Two weeks after that, I started getting shooting pains on my right side. Now my right side is exactly identical to the left side.
Michele: Oh, no.
Don: I can barely – I have to walk with a cane all the time, I cannot walk on uneven surfaces, because I will fall.
Michelle: Now did they tell you when they did the second revision, do you know what kind of implant they put in you at that time? Did they change it?
Don: Oh yeah. That was kind of hilarious when I was looking at that. I got it here. Here is what they left the DePuy arm in there.
Michelle: Oh, OK.
Don: They changed. Because it was implanted well enough then, and that is, once you have to have that arm taken out, that is major.
Michelle: Because that is in your femur. They have to break your bone.
Don: They have to break the bone to get it out and then you have to have bands put on there. That was still well seated. So what they did was they replaced the ball and, I'm getting a laugh out of this really. I think I'm trying every part that's out there. The cup that I have in there now is the Stryker.
Michelle: The Stryker, OK. Is it metal again?
Don: It is metal, yes. On this one here, it has the plastic insert.
Michelle: Oh, OK, good. They are making sure it's not metal on metal. That's good at least. Thankfully on the second try.
Don: I don't think it's the surgeons fault.
Michelle: Oh, no.
Don: Because they are only being told what's new and exciting by these manufacturers.
Michelle: Yeah. They put all these studies out and they convince the doctors that hey... these are good things here. They are really just trying to do what's best for you, but then it ends up, obviously because the manufacturers are putting out there marketing. They are not telling everybody the whole story. Which is a shame that that has to happen, because then it passes to the patient. Right, and then you guys end up suffering from that.
Don: Exactly. You remember the old story you always used to hear that you know doctors and stuff like that go for these little trips to the Bahamas and stuff like that and it's the manufacturers that are sending them? The more and more I get into this, the more I believe it.
Michelle: No. You know, it's true because I know especially here in the states, they've had a lot of lawsuits filed by the government against the manufacturers and then they have to produce all these records.
Don: I know Johnson and Johnson had to pay a big fine.
Michelle: Oh, yeah they did. The thing is, they pay a find and then they go about their business, because they can, which is really the problem there. Again, we're talking major law changes and all this. Patients basically can't trust what's going on, which I think is probably the hardest part. You've been through it now for several years and you just keep having all of these problems.
Don: Then what ended up happening was, like after three months, actually the first month, you go and see your orthopedic surgeon and have some x-rays and see if everything is OK. Then he skipped the second month and went to the third month. Before, it used to be every month for three months and then they would check and give you the OK if you could go back to work. I ended up going back to him, this was just last week. I had my wife with me and he's obviously got the blood reports and everything else. Of course, as soon as he saw me, he saw me with the cane and he said, “What's that?” I said, “I'm still numb. I've got muscle wasting in both legs, both knees from the knees down, I can't feel anything.” He checked the new MRI that I had done, plus I did X-rays that morning.
Michelle: You said this was just last week that you did this.
Don: Yes, this was just last week. He's checking all of this stuff and he says, “Everything looks fine with the hip.” I told him, I said, “Going up the stairs I can feel a little bit of a click.” He says, “That's just wearing in.” I said, “Oh, OK. Did you ever see my blood report?” I wanted to see how he felt about it.
Don: I said to him, “Obviously, you've got the blood reports on the chromium and cobalt.” He goes, “I don't even look at that stuff.” I said, “Excuse me.” I said, “Aren't you guys supposed to be checking this stuff?” He says, “I don't even order the test.” The tests mean nothing to them. My wife looked at me and I looked at her, and I thought there is no sense in me going any further with this. All he seems to be concerned with was the X-ray on the hip. He looked at the MRI and he said, “You do have a little bit of a problem on a couple of your discs in your back.
Michelle: He keeps going back to the back [laughs].
Don: He goes, “But nothing worth – I can't see you needing surgery yet. Just keep exercising. You should be able to build those muscles back up.” I went, “OK.” At that point, it was just like I just wanted to get out of there before I say something I just shouldn't say.
Michelle: You were probably getting pretty angry at this point.
Don: Oh, I was.
Michelle: He wouldn't listen to you.
Don: My wife and I walked out of there. We weren't even out the door when we were talking about it. She goes, “I can't believe that. What a waste of time.”
Michelle: I was going to ask you what your wife thought about this. She went through this whole thing, so she knows all the stuff you've been going through. How does she feel?
Don: She's scared to death.
Michelle: She's afraid because she doesn't know what's going to happen. Right? It's like they aren't telling you what could happen after all this with metal on metal.
Don: After I went back to my doctor, my family doctor, when I first saw the blood test. I should have mentioned this. His wife is his receptionist. I told her he might want to see me because of these tests. She goes, “Don, Dr. Green said this is above his pay scale.
Michelle: Oh goodness.
Don: “He knows absolutely nothing about this.” At least he was honest with me.
Michelle: Yes, he sure was. He sure was and he knew that it was a problem obviously. He wasn't just telling you, “Oh don't worry about it.”
Don: No, no, no. He's thinking the problems I'm having now could be from this chromium and cobalt. He has no idea. He knows nothing, absolutely zero, about this.
Michelle: Yeah and this is like specialist kind of stuff.
Don: Oh, yeah. I do have an appointment to see a neurologist next month. I'm hoping maybe this guy will know a little bit more.
Michelle: Plus, you're having the nerve issues right now and the numbness and the pain.
Don: Oh, yeah. When I put my right arm out, I have, it's like nerve tremors. All of a sudden, my thumb will start going up and down. I'm doing it right now. My whole hand will start and it goes right up to the elbow, just like when you see someone, I can't remember what disease it is, but they always shake.
Michelle: Oh, yeah. Parkinson's.
Don: Yeah, that's what it looks like. Then I get scared and worry, my God, do I have Parkinson's or something?
Michelle: Yeah and you brought up a good point there. With all of the stuff that's going on with you and how this metal affects the body, you don't even know what's happening right now. You don't know what's going to happen the next day. It's definitely a scary experience.
Don: Then when I was on your website, and I read different things. They're even talking short term memory and some people have short term memory. I said that to my wife and she said, “You have always been like that.”
Michelle: OK, no luck there, you can't blame it on the hip.
Don: Exactly. I can't tell if I have short term memory or not. It's selective.
Michelle: And it is crazy stuff. You're not supposed to have that much metal in your body. You're just not.
Don: See, I don't know. I have no reference point. I have what the reference is on the blood test, because it does give you a reference as what is high.
Don: When I check online, I've gone through blogs and everything else. At one point, there I should have saved it, that was maybe 2,000 over or something, but that was on whole blood – and my whole blood is 1,000.89. It says on a whole blood test, it should only be .50 to 4.90. I'm sitting there and I'm looking at thinking, ‘Oh my God. I can't seem to get any help.’ The only help I can get is from my lawyer. I sent these blood tests to him and they've ordered all of my medical records from every doctor that's seen me since 2004. They are getting ready because I do have a lawsuit against Wright Conserve. Well Wright Medical.
Don: It's at that stage now where, he knows they are going to be responding, which is “We don't know what you're talking about.”
Michelle: Yeah, that’s what they usually say.
Don: They're getting all of the records together. They are getting them together now. I'm hoping, they are going to look at it and see, wow, there are some problems.
Michelle: The thing is, is that you've gone through so much over this. The very least they can do is take care of your medical and make sure that you're OK. I do believe that a lot of people are genuinely scared, that something could happen.
Don: I think they're scared, but that's when they should go for these blood tests.
Michelle: Yeah. Go for these blood tests.
Don: If I have anything to say to the people all across the world, “Go and get your blood tested for chromium and cobalt.”
Michelle: Because that changed everything for you, it gave you an answer.
Don: It did, because the chromium and cobalt mimics so many things that could happen as you are getting older.
Michelle: Yes, very true.
Don: And if you don't know, you're just thinking you're getting older. I'm 60. I just turned 60 in April. It’s not old. Actually, I'm still living the life of a 30-year-old.
Michelle: Well, that's good.
Don: The thing is, that tremor in my hand, it used to bother me on the bike a bit. There a couple of years ago, I'd be thinking, maybe it's the vibration of the bike. Then I thought, it's probably because I'm getting older or something like that.
Michelle: You explain it away is what happens.
Don: Exactly. But like I said, the blood test has changed everything and how I look at everything now.
Michelle: Now, you took it upon yourself to do some research, is that definitely something you recommend to people. Go on some reputable sites and check it out for yourself.
Don: Exactly. But what you have to do is get on the FDA or the Health Canada, the Australian registry, the UK. All this was found through the UK. I mean it wasn't the U.S. That was saying anything. It wasn't Canada. The UK and Australia started finding all of these problems.
Michelle: They sure did. It's because they got that registry over there.
Michelle: Most places don't keep track of those things. I mean, here we're kind of like “What? Come on.” We should have something like that. Everybody should have a registry.
Don: I was saying the same thing when I thought, they have a registry. I had looked in Canada. We don't. I looked in the U.S. The FDA is now keeping track
Michelle: They are. Yes, they are. The problem with the FDA is they will say, “We're going to do some studies,” then it takes them years and years and years to say anything about it.
Don: It's like this chromium and cobalt.
Don: I'm looking at this and it's really hard to find information. But some information is coming from doctors in the UK and stuff like that. They are looking at this stuff and seeing these problems and going, “Well, how come they are not seeing it over here in North America?”
Michelle: They are seeing it. The problem is, is no one is reporting it or no one is writing about it so much. I mean I found a few studies, and again, you know when we wrote our pages, because I wrote a lot of the ones that were about the metallosis and all that. I had to do a lot of heavy digging to find anybody doing studies on it.
Don: And they've known about this for over 10 years. I'm going, “How long does it take to study?” I mean, 10 years should be enough.
Michelle: Yeah. No, you're right.
Don: They should know. They should be able to say. You will see on some sites and some of the lawyer sites, they'll say if you have so much chromium and cobalt and it's actually pretty low. It's like maybe 50.1, they're going it is possible that there is some metallosis and the hip may need to be replaced.
Michelle: Yeah. Yeah. It might not take much.
Don: At my levels, I'm surprised the hip just didn't pop out.
Michelle: Yeah, but it's what you're saying there. It's all the other things that happened, the nerve issues, the muscle damage and the bone damage.
Michelle: That I think a lot of people are saying it's because you're getting older, it's the arthritis or your bones were already weak to begin with. That's just no true. As far as what we've seen anyway. Because you were fine before all this started happening. You had your arthritis.
Don: I was active. I hiked. I used to do backpacking and we're not talking little weekend trips. I would go out to a place on Vancouver Island. It's called the West Coast Trail and it's like a 60 mile trail through rainforests that we have in B.C. You can do it in three days, but it usually takes you four or five days and stuff like that. I used to do that solo and stuff like that. Because you could never ever get anyone to go with you. I'm at the point now, where I live, I have a river right behind me that has trails in it. I can't even walk down the bank without...I end up rolling down the bank. I can't walk on uneven ground at all.
Michelle: So how does that make you feel? You have all of these things you used to enjoy and you can't do any of it anymore.
Don: Well, let's see. We had discussed this previously where I said that in our town, here we just had a big flood and my wife had to do everything. Like I said, we had five feet of water in the basement. Three-and-a-half feet was in the yard, when the flood hit. My wife had to pretty much do everything. She works at Wal-Mart, and I was very, very fortunate that the manager at Wal-Mart likes us. He knows what kind of shape I'm in. He came over with a crew of five people to help clean out our basement. Well, that brought me into tears.
Michelle: Yeah, because you couldn't. You're sitting there. It makes you feel bad. Right? Because you feel like I need to be helping, but you can't.
Don: No. I tried and I fell. They told me, get out of here. Go back in and sit on the couch. But, you know, it's the same as last Friday. I had a mild heart attack.
Michelle: From all of the stress from everything.
Don: Well, I know on the second test, they said it was negative, but they did give me the nitro spray. Just to be on the safe side. It's the flood, the medical stuff, like everything just caught up to me all at once. I'm pretty sure it was more of an anxiety attack.
Michelle: Yeah. Yeah.
Don: And I'm sitting there and I'm going, you know, there's nothing I can do about it, because I'm an active person. I can't stop.
Michelle: This completely changed your life, because you have to think about stuff you didn’t used to have to think about. Like you were saying, I better make sure I hold on to something while I'm walking down here.
Michelle: Before you probably just used to rush in and do whatever right?
Don: Yes. Not even think about it. Now I have to think about everything I do, where I walk. Trying to do exercises at the same time. But, I'll prevail, one way or another, unless this chromium/cobalt gets bad enough. I did read some stuff. They can't really prove it and they're not sure. They say it could cause cancer, maybe like liver cancer or something like that. And I'm going, “Well, don't want to read that one anymore.”
Michelle: No, no. And that's another thing. It's just scary. No and I completely understand. There is so little known about some of these things. It's almost like everything could happen, but you don't know. It's just the fact that it could happen. It's scary enough.
Don: And then when you go onto the UK, they have it where they have banned from the hospitals there, metal to metal implants.
Michelle: Because they have enough information.
Don: Oh yeah. And what's going on in the U.S.? What's going on in Canada? I'm sitting there going, Johnson and Johnson had a recall. That I couldn't imagine getting a recall letter on your hip.
Michelle: Yeah, yeah.
Don: That would have blown me right away. Well what do I do, cut it out and send it to you, or what?
Michelle: That's exactly what happens. Real quick, when we are talking about identifying the implant, how you had to do it was you went to your medical records, right? The doctor didn't tell you or anything, you looked it up in your medical records.
Don: They don't bother telling you what it was.
Michelle: You only found out online that you could go and check that.
Michelle: A message to everybody out there too, is that make sure you know what kind of implant you've got. Just to be on the safe side.
Don: Knowledge is everything sometimes. And then you have to remember, most of these hip implants, they are coming into younger people. A lot of them, even when I first got mine, the orthopedic surgeon who was doing my resurfacing, I was just turning 50, he said, “Normally we do these in older people”.
Michelle: Yeah and you're like, “Oh.”
Don: I thought, “Well, gee, maybe I shouldn't have gotten osteoarthritis.” But when you go to that, there are a lot of older people out there that are not computer literate. They're not going to see this stuff.
Michelle: You're right. You're right.
Don: And that's why I say, everyone I talk to and they ask me what's wrong with me, I tell them and I say, look if you have anyone that's a family member or something like that, that's had a metal to metal implant in the last 12 years, tell them to go and get checked. I've had a couple of people tell me, I've told my uncle what happened to you and he's going to get that chromium/cobalt test because he's been having pains in his hip. Well this is what I said, is pass the word along too. Don't just keep it for yourself. Pass it along. Because you might have a friend that has a family member that could be elderly and having a problem with their hip and they think it’s just because their getting older. That might not be the problem.
Michelle: Exactly. You definitely have to go get it checked. Go get a blood test, see the doctor and make sure that everything is OK. Number one thing to do. Right, well thanks so much Don, because you've given us so much information and everybody that's going to be listening, is going to benefit so much from what you've taught us.
Don: I really hope so. I really hope so. Like I said, it's been a pleasure talking to you. Anytime you want to call me again for something, just call.
Michelle Y. Llamas is a senior content writer and researcher for Drugwatch. She is also the host of the Drugwatch Podcast where she talks to patients, experts and advocates about drugs, medical devices and health. She uses her technical writing experience to provide easy-to-understand information on how drugs and devices work. But she also tells people what happens when products that are supposed to improve their lives can hurt them.
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