Voices Across America

My Patient Story

Maria

State: South Carolina
Congressional District:

Diseases

Chronic Pain, Gastrointestinal Disease, Immune Disease, Migraine

Issues and Challenges

Maria has encountered: Insurance Issues, Gaslighting, Invisible Illness, Medical Devices

My Story

Organically Grown Advocate - Harmed by Breast Implants

My name is Maria Gmitro. I am a former educator that grew into a patient safety advocate. I suffered from a common medical device that is placed into thousands of women each year including breast cancer survivors. I researched breast implant surgery and when I asked about the issues of silicone breast implants from the 1990s, my surgeon told me that these new, FDA approved silicone breast implants were completely safe.

In 2014, at age 39, I trusted my doctor and had breast implants placed to correct asymmetry. Within 6 months I started to experience a range of unexplained, debilitating symptoms including chronic fatigue, digestive issues, insomnia, migraines, joint pain, hair loss, rashes and anxiety. Not one of the specialists I saw was able to determine the cause of my fairly sudden onset of symptoms. I was prescribed countless medications, treatments, and lifestyle changes but nothing helped. After two years of illness, I ended up taking a leave of absence from my teaching position to focus on my health.

On social media, I learned about other women with breast implants that experienced similar symptoms, referred to as Breast Implant Illness. All of these issues started after my breast augmentation, which was the only surgery I ever had. I went back to my original surgeon and he told me that the FDA says there was no connection between my symptoms and my breast implants. My medical records told my story of illness because these symptoms started after my breast augmentation. I took a chance and had my implants and surrounding scar tissue removed in 2017. I had a reversal of most of my symptoms. At that point, I knew this was an injustice to patients and something needed to change. I decided to take action.

In 2019 I testified in front of the FDA on the safety of breast implants. Currently, I am President and Co-Founder of Breast Implant Safety Alliance (BISA Nonprofit.) Our mission is to raise awareness, optimize outcomes and ensure informed consent for patients considering breast implant surgery. BISA Nonprofit empowers patients and works collaboratively with all stakeholders including healthcare providers, regulators and legislators, to support systems of education and accountability that promote patient safety. I am a part of multiple collaboratives, have been quoted in multiple articles, been interviewed by various news media, and worked on a PSA with MedTruth titled, “Why Adverse Event Reporting Matters.”

Since the hearing, the FDA has recommended new labeling and an informed consent checklist for breast implants which now include a Black Box Warning. The manufacturer Allergan also recalled textured implants that cause BIA-ALCL, a cancer of the immune system caused by textured breast implants. Unfortunately, most patients are unaware of these safety updates about breast implants and we need help spreading this message.

I now know firsthand how breast implants can impact a woman’s health. If I had known that the true risks of breast implants included debilitating breast implant illness and BIA-ALCL, I would never have chosen to have breast implants placed into my body. If my doctors knew the signs and symptoms to watch for, I could have explanted sooner, avoided years of illness and costly medical bills, had more quality time with my family, and my students would still have me as their teacher. The financial, physical and emotional toll this has taken is devastating. Although change is happening, it is slow and there is still much work to be done.

I am advocating for:
Better informed consent with risks associated with breast implants
Awareness of Breast Implant Illness and BIA-ALCL
Medical device tracking/patient alerting
Proper implant removal
Proper assessment and treatment of BIA-ALCL
ICD-10 code for Breast Implant Illness
Increasing self-reporting of symptoms to the FDA’s MedWatch Program
Federal and State bills regarding medical device safety and better informed consent
Maria in the Media
Explant Documentary
Tribeca Film Festival - June 13, 2021 | Directed by Jeremy Simmons

Breast Implant Illness with Maria Gmitro
Injured Senior Podcast - May 11, 2021 | By Steve Heisler

Breast Implant Illness: Groundbreaking Summit Informs and Educates
MedTruth - January 15, 2021 | By Lauren Styx

A Call to Action During Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Guidemark Health - October 27, 2020 | Jackie Singley

US regulator calls for ‘black box’ warning on breast implants
ICIJ - October 8, 2020 | By Scilla Alecci

Is It Time to Recognize Breast Implant Illness as a Medical Condition?
MedTruth - August 6, 2020 | By Lauren Styx

PSA: Why Adverse Event Reporting Matters
MedTruth - June 22, 2021 | Directed by Lauren Delise

‘The killed her’: Why are breast implants still putting millions of women at risk?
Fortune - May 18, 2020 | By Maria Aspan

Local Advocate Says Breast Implant Recall Promising Sign
ABC News 4 WCIV Charleston, SC - July 24, 2019 | By Caroline Balchunas

14 Patient Advocates Travelled to D.C. - Here’s Why
MedTruth - June 4, 2019 | By Ashley Lombardo

My Breast Implants Made Me Sick
New York Magazine: The Cut - May 6, 2019 | By Katie Heaney

Women Band Together to Ban Certain Types of Breast Implants
Inside Edition - March 25, 2019

How breast implants have destroyed women’s health: “It felt like I was poisoned.”
New York Post - March 20, 2019 | By Doree Lewak

Mount Pleasant woman concerned following FDA breast implant warning
ABC News 4 WCIV Charleston, SC - February 7, 2019 | By Caroline Balchunas

Mount Pleasant woman says breast implants caused serious health problems
ABC News 4 WCIV Charleston, SC - April 11, 2018 | By Ashley Blackstone

My Motivation and Inspiration

My motivation is my daughters. I pray that their generation has better informed consent and they do not suffer the way we have. #notourdaughters

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