Another Vitek Survivor

Vitek is a company that made implants for the replacement of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) for patients with severe temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD). The company was started by Dr. Homsy and sold the implants between 1983 and 1988 until they were taken off the market. They were recalled by the FDA in 1991. The FDA states “Debris in the joint from the implants can contribute to progressive bone degeneration of the condyle … and to a foreign body response which could start in this area and be carried throughout the immune system.”

My journey with the Vitek implant began in 1984. I injured my jaw at work. We needed to move a 700 lb copy machine in our office. Unfortunately, I gritted my teeth when I lifted and completely dislocated the TMJ disk on my right side. I was in immediate pain at the base of my skull and went to the emergency room. I thought I had injured my spine. They thought I might have an aneurism and ordered an MRI. Nothing showed up so I went to my family physician. Fortunately, he had just been playing cards with a dentist who had been discussing TMD. My physician noticed when I opened my mouth that it had a severe deviation to the right and sent me to the dentist.

The dentist fitted me with a splint. I also began seeing a Physical Therapist who tried to get the right side to release. Not only did it not release, but because of the stress from my mouth pulling right, the left disk was mutilated. After three years of therapies and fighting Workman's Comp I finally was awarded a settlement with the stipulation that I must have surgery to correct the condition. This was suppose to "make me whole," but was just the beginning of my nightmare. Workman's Comp refused to continue coverage after the surgery since they "made me whole" and were not responsible for what the implants had done.

I went to an oral surgeon who was suppose to have been an expert on TMJ implants. In a four hour surgery he removed my disks, reshaped my skull to make room for the implant and replaced them with Vitek Proplast Teflon Temporomandibular Implants. He also anchored them with 8 Titanium screws in my skull. I was not informed they were going to use metal screws. They didn't ask if I was allergic to metal. I didn't even wear a wedding ring because of my metal allergy and they didn't even notice. I didn't know enough to ask.

Needless to say I had a severe reaction to the implants. Before I even recovered from the anesthesia I was in intense pain. My head swelled up like a monster. I was in extreme pain in my lungs, stomach, colon, and bladder. The surgeon who had preformed thousands of these surgeries said he had never seen anything like it. He sent me home the next day, not knowing what else to do. It was a very painful 90 mile drive home. I began vomiting and had diarrhea. I went to the emergency room dehydrated and spent several days in the hospital.

Within three months of the implant surgery my condyles had completely deteriorated. I returned several times to the hospital with vomiting and diarrhea. I continued to have severe adnominal pain and was diagnosed with chronic gastritis. My neck swelled up like I had the mumps and I went down to 100 lbs. At the time my physician thought it was just a reaction to the implants and not eating. Then I gained 50 lbs and was diagnosed with Autoimmune thyroiditis from a different physician. I spent five years trying to get relief from my constant pain and illness.

Finally in 1992 I heard about the recall of these implants. I did not receive a notice from the surgeon or the hospital. When I went back to the surgeon he said it was not his responsibility to send a notice. He claimed it was the hospital's responsibility. He reminded me that I signed a release of liability and again he was not responsible for what had happened to me. He also refused to remove the implants and basically wanted me to go away saying there was nothing that could be done.

The hospital who provided the implants claimed they sent a notice of the recall, but it must have gotten lost in the mail. Again reminding me that I had signed a release of liability. I went back to the dentist who was treating me from the beginning and he contacted the School of Dentistry. The head of the department of Oral Surgery agreed to remove the implants in 1992. He had been warning surgeons about these implants from the beginning. I had 30 students in the operating room, but at least I was getting them out!

I have read about the difficulty of some people getting their insurance to cover the surgery to have the implants remove. In the beginning my insurance company gave me the run around. At the time my husband was working with the CEO of the corporation and had been telling him about my condition and surgeries. When the insurance company tried to deny coverage he called the insurance company and told them to cover it. By this time I had gotten to know the claims agent. The CEO had called her supervisor. She said when the CEO says cover it...you cover it.

In 1998, my husband left me shortly after it was suggested that I might have MS. It is difficult living with someone who has constant pain and illness. He said I was going to end up in a wheelchair and he didn't want to take care of me. Amazing how he claims not to remember saying that. He was offered a job out of state and left me and my children to deal with selling the house and moving.

It all worked out in the end. I didn't have enough work credits to get SSD while I was married and he made too much money for me to quality for SSI. After he left me in poverty I was able to qualify for SSI and medicaid. He went on to start a new business and has a new wife to help him. I live in a small subsidized apartment in a senior complex, which is all I need and can take care of.

I continued to have multiple medical problems after the implants were removed. I am in constant pain from head to toe. Just the pain alone would keep you from functioning, but I also have difficulty thinking, remembering, and staying focus. It takes me days to write one post. I have difficulty keeping my balance and have constant dizziness. When I do have the strength and energy to get things done the activity puts me in spasm and pain.

I have to lay down with a hot pack and take a break while I am preparing food, and must rest for hours before I can get the dishes done. The Chemical Sensitivities makes it impossible to leave my home without running into something. Typing and looking at the monitor is painful and puts me in spasm, yet I still need to do everything online since paper and ink brings on a more severe reaction.

I do not take pain medications since they cause more pain in my digestive system than they would help. I do take gabapentin which helps with nerve pain, in the beginning it made me groggy, but I have adjusted. I also take Methocarbamol and Baclofen for the muscle spasms. I have a TENS unit which helps with the pain and spasms in my lower body. If it gets near my head it sets off my Trimengial neuralgia. Here is a chronology of what I have been through:

1984 – Jaw injury, Trimengial neuralgia, chronic paresthesia, chronic tendonitis
1987 – Bilateral Vitek Proplast Teflon Temporomandibular Joint Implant
             severe gastritis, degenerative arthritis, severe rapid condylar degeneration
1988 – Autoimmune: thyroiditis, gastritis, ulcers (no H. pylori), slight hiatal hernia
1992 – Bilateral Vitek Proplast Teflon Temporomandibular Joint Implant removal
1994 – Severe Interstitial Cystitis - autoimmune
1998 – Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, spastic colon, IBS, asthma,
             multiple chemical sensitivities
2001 – Thyroid/Parathyroid Lobectomy
2005 – Toxic encephalopathy, immune deregulation,
             autonomic nervous system dysfunction
2006 – Cervical arthritis


If you are a Vitek TMJ Implant survivor please join us on Google Plus communities @ Vitek Survivors.

3 comments:

  1. Oh Brenda... I literally have shivers going u and down my spine... but I am sure its not the implants. Its never from the implants is it? Ha!

    Your story so could be mine except I did not have an injury, I had full on degeneration of the Tm joints. The condyles bi-laterally had degenerated completely leaving bone on bone. So even when I inhaled the upper & lower jaw bones were rubbing against each other.

    The implants once recalled here in the states were too late of an action for millions of us. Then Dr Honmsey took and tried to peddle the Vitek implants to 3rd world countries. Thankfully the World Health organization listened to us and the petition we sent to ban him from marketing and selling them as is,

    I do hope you were able to receive some compensation,albeit its never enough. I'd give back every cent if only to have my life back as it was before, and know you would too.
    The doctors were wrong. Yes you signed a liability release. This did not release them from liability concerning medical implant failures.
    I have an awesome attorney, but even with that fighting DuPont & Dow Corning along with the numerous agencies (hospitals & Universities)involved in research and development was a losing battle. They are too big, winning became something I no longer could cope with. Pain took over all.

    I have another blog which is my primary blog. It has some Vitek material too as I started this blog a year earlier than the one you visited. I am trying to move it all to FullCircledMe.
    I'd love to know if we would garner enough interest to start a FB page. Love the idea.

    Take care, please be in touch again soon ~ BB

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  2. It is a joy to find you. There are so few of us out there... and fewer still who are sharing. Most of us are too ill. It is a physical and mental struggle for me to write, but I believe it is important to try and share what we are going through. I also need the extra motivation or I will turn into a vegetable...even though it takes me a long time.

    I did receive a pittance from the bankruptcy. It didn't even cover my 20% co-pay for one year. I didn't get a lawyer, my dentist told me about the class action lawsuit and I filed to be a part of that suit. I am sure they were counting on us being in too much pain to continue fighting. At least, we have our words.

    I will try to get over to your other blog. I am terrible about writing comments. My brain just doesn't work that way. Thank you so much for joining me on Google Plus @ Vitek Survivors. Hopefully people will eventually find us. I think we should have a FB page also. The more opportunities to connect with people the better.

    Blessings, Brenda

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  3. I also am a Vitek Survivor; I want you to know something that may be helpful. Many of my family and friends tell me that they want to pray for me to be healed. I tell them not to (though, of course, they are free to do so anyway). I have been through so much, unsuccessfully, that I have come to the conclusion that I will not be healed, but this does not depress me. Instead, I feel that there is a reason for this. Although I don't know the reason ("...now we see through a glass darkly..."), THERE IS ONE.
    I have found that I am open to talking to (usually disabled) people that I meet (though I can't get out very often, it seems I meet someone almost every time I do), and inevitably there is something that I can tell them, something that I can say, that is helpful to them. Is this the reason? I don't know. But, Bren, there is one. I hope that this gives you a reason to get out of bed this morning. As soon as I can straighten out a problem I have with my gmail, I am going to join your Vitek Survivors group, and perhaps we can discuss this in more detail. Until then, please think about what I have said. God bless you. -- Jani Kidd

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