Welcome to Part Two of our interview with mesh survivor Christy Hammond, founder of SurvivingMESH.org, and her attorney, Karen Beyea-Schroeder. In this podcast episode, Christy continues to discuss her experiences with transvaginal mesh, life after mesh and her views on the medical industry. Then, her attorney explains more about mesh lawsuits.
(Don’t miss Part I, which aired last week.).
Manufacturers ‘Not Looking Out’ for Women
When Christy found out what transvaginal mesh was and how the dangerous device made it inside her body, at first she felt betrayed by her doctor.
“Had I known, it would have changed the outcome. I can assure you of that. If somebody had presented this information to me today, I would not have had that surgery. Period,” Christy said. “But unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.”
As Christy learned more about the mesh, she realized she couldn’t blame the doctors. They were just trying to do their job, she said, with what information and tools they were provided with.
It was the manufacturers that didn’t warn women about the health risks associated with mesh, she said. What little they did warn about was not a strong enough warning, Christy said, and it didn’t properly convey the extent of the injuries a woman could suffer by using a mesh implant.
While Christy no longer blames doctors, she also feels that they need to do their due diligence.
“They need to pay attention to what is happening with these manufacturing companies and realize that [these companies] are not always looking out for the best interest of their patients,” she said.
Learning the Truth
The experience with mesh taught Christy that she needs to be more vigilant when it comes to being informed about her health care.
“It makes me more aware that [you] need to do research on anything and everything that you ever put inside your body. It’s a concern for everyone,” she said. “Someone needs to keep a better watch over these companies.”
Christy also learned about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 510(k) process, one of the most troubling aspects of the story of mesh.
Under the 510(k), manufacturers are not required to test certain medical devices as long as they are based on a similar product already on the market.
As such, many of these products make it into people’s bodies without being adequately tested for safety and effectiveness.
“It’s scary,” Christy said.
Christy and other women who have gone through the complications with mesh call themselves “survivors” because the health issues they face truly do make them feel like they could be dying.
“I was convinced I was dying of a mysterious illness,” she said. “Until I had the mesh removed, I was not convinced I was going to live much longer. It was remarkable all the things I was going through. The list is a mile long.”
In fact, even after the mesh was removed, she was convinced she was getting worse. She began to doubt her decision to have the mesh removed. Then, after about 12 weeks, she was finally able to sit up for longer than 30 minutes, and she knew the surgery had helped.
That burning pelvic pain that was her constant companion for years was finally gone. She could finally breathe better, and her lower back pain was better.
Still, there are many things she simply has to live with, including scarring, numbness and nerve damage.
Despite the fact that her health will never be the same, she made the commitment to move from victim to survivor. For all those years, she said, she hid her pain.
“I don’t have to hide it anymore,” she said. “I own it. Now, let’s just move forward. So, I do consider myself a survivor.”
To other women who are still suffering with the effects of mesh, Christy says this: “Do not give up. Do not be bullied into thinking it is not the mesh that is causing your pain and agony. Keep researching, and find that one doctor that will take the time to listen. If you have mesh in you, get it out.”
Many people assume that mesh lawsuits are lumped into a class action, but that is not the case. According to attorney Karen Beyea-Schroeder, class actions are large lawsuits involving multiple unknown plaintiffs. Often, the attorney filing the class action will make a decision on behalf of all plaintiffs.
In product liability cases involving medical devices such as transvaginal mesh or hip implants, plaintiffs retain their own case and make claims for individual damages.
“Not one person is treated the same,” Beyea-Schroeder said. “Everybody is unique; everybody is different. You need to be able to account for that when you are evaluating cases.”
She also explains that women may have a limited amount of time to file a mesh lawsuit.
Last week, we aired Part I of this podcast. Listen here.
Drugwatch Radio Wants to Hear from You
We hope you enjoyed this podcast. If you have any questions about anything you heard on this show, we want to hear from you. Drugwatch Radio can be reached via email at [email protected], via Twitter @Drugwatch_Radio and through our Facebook page.
Michelle Llamas: Welcome to another episode of Drugwatch Radio. I’m your host, Michelle Llamas. This episode is Part Two of a two-part show, featuring Christy Hammond. At 30 years old, Christy’s life was forever changed when she received a transvaginal mesh implant, called a bladder sling. The bladder sling was supposed to prevent incontinence, instead, she suffered severe complications. Christy and I chatted by telephone about her experience. Also joining us for a brief explanation about the legal aspects of mesh is attorney, Karen Beyea-Shroeder. Here are the recorded interviews.
Michelle: Now, when you finally found out what it was, and, you know, all the things going on with this mesh – how it wasn’t tested, and, and how people didn’t know a lot about it, how did you feel, that it actually made it into your body, at that point?
Christy Hammond: Betrayed. I felt betrayed. I felt, like I could never trust a doctor — in the beginning all of my blame, if that’s what you want to call it.
Christy: Because again, I was green. I, I –
Christy: I still don’t know everything, but I’m going tell you that at first it was the doctors I was mad at. I thought, ‘My gosh, you know, you, you go to these professionals for help because you don’t have the answer, because you don’t have the medication, and you know, you go to them for help.’ And, I went for help, yet wasn’t provided the information – had I known, would have changed the outcome. I, I can assure you of that. If somebody presented this in front of me today, I would not have had that surgery, period. But, unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
Michelle: So, I mean, this is definitely a, a thing of, you know, the manufacturers failing to warn people and, and –
Christy: That’s right.
Michelle: You know, maybe the doctors not knowing the whole story. But, it, it’s interesting how, you know, the marketing of these products is put out and the information that is actually presented to the doctors, is also, kind of, you know, suspect (chuckles) at the same time.
Christy: Well exactly, and you know, that’s, that’s one thing I figured out too, you know, after putting all the blame on the doctors.
Christy: Because I didn’t know any better, I finally had come to the conclusion that, ya know, it’s, it’s not necessarily the doctors. They are doing their job, they are being told one thing by their – you know, they’re trusting in these manufacturing companies…
Michelle: Because why shouldn’t they, right? You would think –
Christy: That’s right.
Michelle: Why shouldn’t they?
Christy: That’s right. That’s who provides what he needs to make – or he or she – but what the doctor needs to make their patient better. So, they’re dependent upon these, just the same as, ya know, an auto company is dependent upon a tire maker.
Christy: I mean, it’s just a relationship that you have. And then, you know, and when I found out that, you know, these manufacturers were keeping secrets, basically, and, and, not giving the whole truth, or just barely warning that, you know that a small potential risk of injury –
Michelle: Yes, yes, I remember that.
Christy: That’s not alarming enough.
ML: Mmm, hmm.
Christy: Yeah, and that is just not alarming enough. So, I no longer blame the doctors. I just really feel that they need to [sigh] pay more attention to what is happening with these manufacturing companies. And in real life, that they’re not always looking out for the best interest of their patient.
Michelle: Now, you mentioned that you were green, you know, at the beginning of all this. Now that all this has, has happened, and, you’ve done so much research and you’ve learned so much, how has that changed your impression of the medical community and may be drugs and medical devices in general?
Christy: Well, I’m bitter. I can tell you, that I’m, I’m, I’m very bothered by what I have learned, and it just makes me more aware that I need to do research on anything and everything you ever put inside your body.
Michelle: Yes, mmm, hmm.
Christy: Yeah, and I just, you know, I, I – it’s, it’s, just, it’s a concern. It’s a concern for…everyone, actually, that we just aren’t, we aren’t getting the care that we deserve. We’re not getting – somebody needs to, [sigh] to keep a better watch, I think, over these companies, and..
Michelle: Mmm, hmm
Christy: And it be more than just the 5-10k process.
Michelle: Yeah, yes. Which is very controversial, because, a lot of people don’t know, right? And, and the sad thing is, I think many people learned after something happened to them, what the 5-10k was.
Michelle: Right, where they don’t test these things.
Christy: Well, I’d never heard of it before.
Michelle: Right, well, they don’t have to test the devices as long as somebody else made one, similar to it. But the interesting thing is, is, those weren’t tested either. So, right, we’ve, we’ve got these things that come out and there – I’ve heard experts mention it, and call it as a, experiment, (chuckles) you know, almost like – a
Michelle: When these devices come out, they, they experiment in the people that they get put into, and .it’s, I mean, you know, it’s –
Christy: How scary, right?
Michelle: Yeah, it’s very scary, and, and, you know, the FDA, I, I think is trying to do, to do something about, but at the same time, I don’t know how many people it’s gonna take, you know, to be injured before they actually take it seriously.
Michelle: But, now, we talked about the communities and the support groups, which are phenomenal for a lot of the women that are going through this. And like you mentioned before to us that you’ve received emails, and, and calls, and, and things from people that say that hey thank you so much for, for putting this out. And there are a couple other support groups that are available out there. Do you kind of talk with, with the other support group leaders and, and kind of have a –
Christy: I do.
Michelle: You know, a relationship, I guess?
Christy: Most of them I do, yes. Yeah. I mean it’s hard to keep up with all the new ones out there.
Michelle: Oh, yeah.
Christy: But the original girls, yes I do. Actually, when I first created my Facebook in 2011, there were no others that I could find.
Michelle: Oh my goodness, yes!
Christy: Yeah, but again, I definitely do. The original, the original group of girls, yes. I, I am on their pages – and I definitely – we share information and – it’s just, it’s remarkable the work that. And the unity, that this has brought amongst women. And, and amongst these patients period, us victims, in other words.
Michelle: Mmm, hmm.
Christy: And I’m, I’m forever thankful for those that I have met, that’s for sure.
Michelle: Now, I, I get this question a lot from, from some people. And people that’ve had mesh call themselves survivors, you know, and I think that there is almost this, this confusion because they’re saying, “Well could you die from mesh?” And I’m like well, it’s not like cancer or, or something like that. But in a way your life has changed, right?
Michelle: So, and, it’s, it’s a complete, huge change. So is that kind of why, you, you know, that term kind of came about? That people survive mesh?
Michelle: It’s almost.
Christy: Well . . .
Michelle: Like you are dying in a way? It’s just –
Christy: Yes, I mean –
Christy: You do kind of feel that way. And again, like I said, I was convinced I was, I was dying of a mysterious illness, you know, so.
Michelle: Mmm, hmm.
Christy: Yes, you do feel as if your life is coming to an end. You know, I mean, until I had the mesh removed, I was not convinced I was gonna to live much longer. My blood pressure was dropping, I mean . . . it was, it was just all . . . it was remarkable.
Michelle: Mmm, hmm.
Christy: All the things I was going through. And I mean, the list is a mile long.
Michelle: Mmm, hmm.
Christy: But, when you have all of these things going wrong, and you have no energy. You do, you do begin to question it. And so I just decided that once I knew and was able to then wrap my brain around what was truly going on. And understand that, no, I’m not dying, necessarily.
Michelle: Mmm, hmm.
Christy: Then you have to switch modes. And, and I, it’s always been in my nature to survive whatever situation it may be. And I’ve turned being a victim into being a survivor. I have to go on with my life, one way or the other. Just like I tried to do for all those years when I didn’t know. I mean, I tried to keep it a secret. I tried to hide it. I tried to pretend. And, I don’t have to do all those things anymore. I, I don’t have to pretend. I don’t have to . . . I, I own it. I own it. So, now let’s just move forward. So, I, I do consider myself a survivor.
Michelle: Well, that’s wonderful. And is that, I mean, that’s the same sort of thing you, you inspire, or try to inspire, right, in people that come to you, other women that are going through the same thing?
Christy: I do. I sure do.
Michelle: Be an inspiration, and, I mean.
Christy: Well, that’s my hope.
Michelle: You just having this outlet for these women is, is, fantastic. So, again, hat’s off to you.
Christy: Well, thank you.
Michelle: So thank you very much for that. . . . We’re going to take a quick break and we’ll be right back with more Drugwatch Radio. . . . Welcome back to Drugwatch radio. I’m your host, Michelle Llamas. With, other women that are, are, living with this right now, that maybe, maybe they just found out, you know, ‘cause I, I think it’s, it’s still going on, you know. That women that’ve had these things going on with them are just coming to it now and just finding out about this.
Christy: Oh sure.
Michelle: Is there any advice that you can give to women that might be, you know, at the beginning of their journey?
Christy: Well, if I have said this once throughout my journey, I have said it a hundred times; do not give up. Do not be bullied into thinking isn’t the mesh causing your pain and agony. And keep researching, and find that one doctor that will take the time to listen and will know how to help. Because, as time moves forward, doctors are really beginning to realize this is truly an epidemic.
Michelle: Mmn, hmm.
Christy: We really aren’t crazy.
Michelle: No, and I mean there are . . . if you want to look at the lawsuits – and those are just the people that did file lawsuits. There’s probably countless women out there that aren’t doing, you know, anything about it, per se, in that way, but, there are thousands. I mean, it’s overwhelming even to the judge that’s handling these cases because – it – there’s a lot of, of women that are involved in this, you know.
Christy: That’s right.
Michelle: That’s fantastic that they’ve got some place to go now, though, maybe, you know, now that there’s more information than there was when you started, you know, on this. Yeah, that’s, that’s a blessing in that sense. But what do you see, you know, the, the future – your future going? Living with, with the mesh? I mean, you, you had some of it take out, you mentioned. But I know there still going to be issues that you, you go with, right?
Christy: Sure. I, I, don’t think I’ll ever be 100 percent again, but a lot did change, you know. Once I recovered, I wasn’t convinced, right after my surgery and for twelve weeks after the mesh removal surgery, I was not convinced one bit that – in fact I thought it was worse. I thought, “Oh my gosh, what’ve I done to myself?” OK? Well, about my 12th or 13th week when I was able to then sit up for longer than 30 minutes at a time, I realized, “Wow, my lower pelvic area is not on fire anymore.” And . . .
Michelle: Yeah, you’re like, “Wow [inaudible] breakthrough.”
Christy: And, well, it, it was a breakthrough in itself. It actually was. Because that was a tremendous amount of pain, and I mean, when I would sit up — and, you know, sitting in a chair all day intensified and made it worse, and so for that to be gone, I could’ve — I would’ve been fine with just that. Then I slowly realized I was breathing better, my lower back wasn’t hurting as much, and the jolts on my side – it wasn’t constant anymore. I will say I still have the jolts every now and then, when I get ‘em I think, “Oh gosh, is this it’s head, you know, it’s ugly head rearing again?” And, you know, I start to dwell on it a little bit, but it goes away and everything is okay again. But, you know, there’s, there’s still side effects, I guess, if that what you want to call it.
Christy: That, that, you know, I’m scared in my personal area. There, there . . . are scrapes, and I’m numb down there. There’s no feeling any more.
Michelle: That must be . . that’s so horrible…
Christy: It is horrible.
Michelle: It’s a permanent nerve damage.
Christy: And that’s permanent, that’s right. Well, yes, there is a lot of nerve damage. I was told that, you know, after my surgery that there was a lot of nerve damage. You know, my hips and my legs go. I toss and turn all night long because they go numb constantly. And, and that’s when I’m laying on my side. I don’t sleep on my back. And, so when I try to be comfortable laying on my side, it just, you know, they continue to go numb. But again, I have energy that I didn’t have for many years. So there’s a lot of pluses.
Christy: And that is why, and where, the inspiration comes in, because you cannot – and the word survivor, too – because you cannot let this beat you. I mean you – people live with, with major illnesses. People live with diseases. People live with injuries. And you just at some point have to realize you got to go on. But, I think what was tearing me down and breaking me down from the, you know – for all those years – was the not knowing. When you don’t know you can’t create an action plan.
Christy: And so, yeah, and now I have an action plan. I know what’s going on, you know. I don’t know what could potentially happen later on because this is new. Nobody does.
Michelle: Definitely, yes.
Christy: As time goes, we’ll see. But, I know that having most of it removed, has improved my life a lot. And, I will be forever thankful for that. So, you know, the future is still unknown as far as that goes. But, I will say, if you have mesh in you, get it out.
Michelle: Yes, definitely. That’s the one thing, you’re like, “Hey, okey, if you’re on the fence as to whether you should remove it or not –”
Christy: Get it out.
Michelle: That — you know, there’s some controversy as to what exactly is wrong with this product. Whether it’s what it’s made of, or whether it’s, you know, the procedure of placing it in there. But I think it’s –
Christy: I’m not so convinced –
Michelle: A combination of all of it.
Christy: That’s right. I’m not so convinced it’s any one of those things. It’s really everything. And it’s the breaking off of the pieces, maybe, of it. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor, so –
Michelle: They’re still studying it.
Christy: I still don’t know all of that.
Christy: That’s right. I don’t think the doctors even necessarily know.
Michelle: No, no.
Christy: But you can never convince me that all these 50,000-plus people are just somehow coming up ironically with the same exact symptoms. I mean, I know there’ll always be the ones who jump on.
Christy: Like I said earlier, some bandwagon. But, history in my case proves itself. You know, my symptoms were listed long before there was any infomercial, before there was any mention of it anywhere. You know, my symptoms that were A-Z listed. You know, so there’s no denying it, in other words.
Michelle: Yeah, and I guess the worst thing.
Christy: You know, it is what it is.
Michelle: The worst thing about all of this is that it could’ve been prevented, if you just knew. Right?
Christy: That’s right.
Michelle: If someone had just told you and you could’ve made a decision for yourself.
Christy: That’s right.
Michelle: Then none of this would be happening.
Christy: Or, had it removed way many years ago if that (indistinct)
Michelle: Yeah, because you knew that was, was the option, ’cause you didn’t even know that’s what it was.
Christy: That’s right, that’s right.
Michelle: Now, if there’s anything else you want to share, you know with any of the listeners, any of the women out there, if you’ve got a message for any of them, what would it be? Besides not giving up?
Christy: Well, the message is just still clearly that. I mean, the message is you just have to take your life in your own hands. You cannot just think that the doctors always know what’s best. And to listen to your intuition. I mean, you know, I knew in my gut that something was wrong with me and that’s why I kept pushing forward and kept going to different doctors, because I wasn’t getting the answer that I needed. It was. There were no answers, for that matter. But, I never gave up. I knew something was wrong that needed to be addressed. So, I think the bottom line is, you have to listen to yourself, and you have to be responsible, and do research, and just know what is being put into your body.
Christy: Be it a medication or product that is being used for some reason, you have to be aware and be cautious.
Michelle: And maybe not – would you also say, not to be afraid to, to get help? You know, and, and, to speak out about what’s happening with you? Because I –
Michelle: think that some women feel, like you were mentioning before, you kind of want to hide it and you didn’t really want to talk about it because it was such a problem. But, you know, maybe not being afraid, and trying to reach out, like you did, you know, when you finally decided you needed some help.
Christy: That’s right. I mean, you can’t – you’re going to kill yourself if you do that. In other words, you have to ask for help, you have to keep going, until you find somebody who’s listening to what you’re saying. And really listening. You know, I, I would see some doctors just – it was as if I was – I, I should’ve – I could’ve just been talking to the wall, in other words. It was just going in one ear and out the other, because they really just had no idea what I was saying.
Michelle: Mmm, hmm.
Christy: But . . .
Michelle And they were probably already writing off what you were saying. They’re going, “Oh, no, no, it can’t be the mesh. Or it can’t be that. Or it can’t . . .” You know, right?
Michlle: Mmm, hmm.
Christy: I mean, if they even knew of the mesh themselves, you know. I don’t know, honestly . . .
Michelle: Oh, that’s right, because you didn’t know about it. That’s right, you didn’t know about it.
Christy: That’s right, yeah. And I, I’m not convinced, truthfully. I don’t think that any of the doctors [inaudible]. At first, I started thinking, “Well, did they know about?
Michelle: Mmm, hmm.
Christy: And they just didn’t want to get involved?’ And, you know, I just started getting so angry. That was where my anger was, was coming from with these doctors.
Michelle: Why won’t they help you? Right? Why won’t they help you? Mmm, hmm.
Christy: Yeah, why won’t they? What are they afraid of? Afraid of getting into – involved in some sort of, you know, lawsuit?
Michelle: Legal, yeah, lawsuit, uh-huh.
Christy: Yeah. But, honestly, I don’t think they were equipped with the information, I don’t think they had any idea what was going on. So, maybe they thought I was crazy. I don’t know.
Michelle: Yeah. Yeah.
Christy: I thought I was crazy.
Michelle: Mmn, hmm.
Christy: I, I don’t know. But you just can’t stop. You have to keep going and keep going until you finally find that doctor who listens.
Michelle: That’s right. So, final, final advice: do not give up and get help. Basically.
Christy: That’s right. Yes.
Michelle: Thank you so much for being with us today, Christy. I – again I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for us, helping us get the word out, and helping other women with sharing your experience.
Christy: Well, ditto, my friend. You’re doing the exact same, and I very much appreciate all you’re doing.
Michelle: Oh, well thank you, thank you. I mean, me and the team here, we always try very hard, so that – I really appreciate that.
Christy: Well, you’re doing a fabulous job.
Michelle: Thanks. . . . We’re going to take a quick break and we’ll be right back with more Drugwatch Radio. . . . Welcome back to Drugwatch radio. I’m your host, Michelle Llamas.
ML: Thanks for joining us for an interview with Christy Hammond. Now, Christy’s attorney, Karen Beyea-Schroeder, explains mesh lawsuits. Alright, so when we’re talking medical devices, like hips or mesh, and everybody’s got their own lawsuit, that’s pretty much what’s going on. They don’t typically do class actions for things like . . .for medical device law suits, right?
Karen Beyea-Schroeder: Correct, because you can look at your operative report, and either your implant log or surgical stickers, or sometimes even your billing that is itemized by the hospital to see who the manufacturer of your device is, what type of device you had and therefore you have your own individual case because you know exactly who you need to sue.
Michelle: And another thing, I think, is that you actually have more control over the claim too, right, in a multi-district? ‘Cos you, you, retain your, like you were saying, your own specific claim, so your own injuries, and the damages you suffer are different from other people. Right?
Michelle: And the, and the litigation.
Michelle: And class-action is more of a blanket thing, Right? And you don’t really have a say. If you’re a part of it, you don’t really have a say in, in what’s going on.
Karen: It’s very correct. When you have a class action, you kind of get a notice, “Hey this is what the attorneys are recommending as settlement.” You can opt out and have your own law suit, otherwise you get, you know whatever it is that the attorneys have worked out for you. In a multi-district litigation, everybody has their own lawsuit. Everybody gets judged individually based on their own criteria, or their own damages, their own medical issues, for what their value of their case is. And then, the attorney hopefully will be able to recommend whether or not a settlement is offered, whether or not that should be taken or should not be taken, based on each individual persons medical history, damages, you know, lost wages and things like that.
Michelle: I think we had some people that were concerned about filing lawsuits, and thinking of it in the class-action sense. Of where you kind of lose your identity in this big, you know, giant case that rolls through the court and then you, you don’t have a say in what happens. And, and I just wanted people to, to know from you that, you know, something like this is very different from a class action. But –
Karen: And not one person is treated the same. I mean, everybody is unique, everybody is different, everybody’s medical history is different. Everybody has gone through different things in life. And you need to be able to account for that when you’re trying to evaluate cases, and determine what they are worth.
Michelle: Yeah, definitely. One person’s experience is certainly not another’s. Why should women who are – say they’re on the fence right now, and they’re wondering, you know, they’re seeing this stuff in the news, and they’ve got issues with mesh right now. Why would you think it would be good for a woman to file a mesh lawsuit?
Karen: If they are having complications from a mesh device — and each state has a certain time period by which they need to file their law suit — and so therefore, if the woman is having a problem because of her mesh, she need to seek out legal counsel because she may be waving her right to be able to proceed to trial against the mesh manufacturer, assuming that she is having problems. And so therefore, you know, if you’re having problems with your mesh, you need to protect your rights. Talk to an attorney, and decide whether or not to proceed with a law suit. Just because you pick up the phone and call an attorney, doesn’t mean you have to file a law suit or hire the attorney. It’s, it’s always up to the client. And therefore, you know, if the person is having a problem, I would recommend that they at least talk to an attorney to find out when their deadline would be if they wanted to file a law suit. And then also what their rights would be if they did or did not file that lawsuit.
Michelle: Yes, certainly. So, it does not hurt to be informed, in fact, at least they can make a better decision, right? Once they know the facts about what’s going on?
Michelle: Thank you so much for being with us Karen. You know, the answers that you gave, I’m sure are going to help a lot of ladies out there that are wondering about what’s going on with the mesh lawsuits right now.
Karen: Thank you, have a good day.
Michelle: That concludes this podcast featuring Christy Hammond and Karen Beyea-Schroeder. If you have any comments or questions, you can email us at [email protected], tweet us on @drugwatchradio, or like us on Facebook. On behalf of the team at Drugwatch, thanks for listening.