Vada Mae Smith spent most of her life in Summers County, West Virginia.
Her father, Daniel Green Sears, was a railroader and his wife handed one-month old Vada Mae over to Daniel on a street corner in Hinton W.V. a few days before Christmas 1942.
When he married, he would be able to gain official custody under West Virginia law, but that didn’t happened until Vada was four years old.
Eventually, the mother went on to marry a richer man who worked in the Chevrolet plant in Cleveland.
At the end of her mother’s life, Vada asked if she had ever done anything her mother was proud of. No, she was told.
Mary, Vada Mae’s daughter, says Vada suffered from abandonment issues all of her life.
Vada cleaned houses for a living. She had five children and gave them biblical names. Her husband, Robert Buckland, father of her children, died in May 1972 of a heart attack.
Vada Mae died September 13, 2016. The cause of death is listed as multisystem failure. No medications could address her antibiotic-resistant chronic infections.
Vada Mae Smith was 73 years old.
The last 16 years of Vada’s life was a living hell, says her daughter, spent in and out of the hospital and nursing homes.
Mary says her mother’s health declined after she received two transvaginal mesh implants, one in 2001 and another in 2006. Both were made by Ethicon, a division of Johnson & Johnson (J&J).
Mary Dickson is now the personal representative of her mother’s estate.
Mary reached out to MND to help tell her mother’s story and find someone to represent her mother in a possible wrongful death and product liability lawsuit against the healthcare giant. The case is set for trial in spring 2018.
The Smith complaint is filed in federal court in the Southern District of WV, (No. 2:15-cv-02800), where more than 104,000 defective product cases have been consolidated against seven manufacturers, alleging transvaginal mesh is defective.
It states a TVT (Tension-Free vaginal tape) was implanted in Vada Mae to treat incontinence by Dr. Michael Lassere, MD at Low Moore Virginia Columbia Alleghany Regional Hospital on August 17, 2001.
But Mary says she has found records that show the TVT Blue, used to treat incontinence, was implanted 70 days before it received the Food and Drug Administration’s 510(K) clearance for market.
She also found medical records that show a second mesh, a TVT-O, was implanted in 2006.
The original Smith complaint didn’t have the second mesh or the fact that the TVT Blue should not have been on the market.
The complaint did not contain the additional surgery Vada underwent in September 2002 to fix her prolapse, is missing two hospice recommendations that can be considered a cause of death; the 20 transfusions to address mysterious rectal and vaginal bleeding, transfusions that made her blood type difficult to match; and the fact that antibiotics could no longer address her chronic UTI’s.
That too goes toward cause of death and holds as much weight as an autopsy and medical examiner,” she insists.
“We need as much evidence as you could gather to go up against J&J‘s lawyers. And two hospice referrals with UTIs antibiotic resistant I thought was very important because these are known mesh symptoms.” ~ Mary Dickson
She requested of her two law firms to amend the complaint and when they didn’t Mary asked to be dropped as a client. They agreed. She is proceeding Pro Se, Latin for “on one’s own behalf.”
Judge Joseph Goodwin who is overseeing the multidistrict litigation in Charleston, W.V. has given Mary until December 11th to obtain counsel or provide the court with evidence she is the sole beneficiary and has no creditors.
Vada’s youngest boy, Jimmy, was born in October 1971 and soon afterward Vada began bleeding.
The next year had a complete hysterectomy. There was some question that she might have cancer, but no medical record, among the 3,000 pages Mary has collected, reflects that diagnosis and Vada received no treatment for cancer such as chemotherapy or radiation.
A complete hysterectomy in January 1972 removed the cervix, ovaries and uterus. Vada was 29 years old.
By the time she was referred to gynecologist Dr. Michael Lassere in 2001, she had started leaking urine. The condition was getting worse.
Dr. Lassere used a polypropylene mesh implant, the Ethicon Gynecare TVT-Blue System AA, with an abdominal accessories kit. The kit came with the tools used to implant the mesh.
Mary said she has found no informed consent documents.
After her TVT implant, Vada began experiencing problems.
Vada had a lot of pain in her right groin. She was still leaking but now she was losing her balance and falling. Vada developed MRSA in a wound in her right knee from a fall.
An interstim was implanted to tell her when she should pee but, Mary calls it “ridiculous.”
“She was still leaking even between. It wouldn’t vibrate. It (pee) would start rolling out of her.”
Mary says her mother felt aches and pain all over, in her abdomen and pelvic area, up the back of her legs. She had to take her fingers and move her bowel out of the way to urinate because something was blocking the urine flow. She could not have a bowel movement without difficulty.
She was upset and was treated for anxiety and fibromyalgia.
Mary says six months after the TVT was put in, Vada had a distinct odor that you could even smell it outside of her house. Mary believes its’ related to polypropylene, the synthetic polymer that is used to make transvaginal mesh. Her mother was incredibly embarrassed and it wouldn’t go away. You would smell it when she was on the commode, when her legs were apart in the bathroom.
Dr. Joseph Moshy (Joseph Mouchizadeh) MD, urologist from Lewisburg WV, took over from Dr. Lassere, October 4, 2002.
A February 26, 2005, a record from Dr. Moshy says the patient has a catheter but it is unclear why she is bleeding.
The medical records show Dr Moshy decided to implant a second Ethicon mesh, the TVT-O (Obturator) on September 27, 2006.
The urinary tract infections never cleared up. Urine leakage and falls were a regular occurrence.
By February 2008, Vada was taken to the ER with chest pain, UTI’s and vomiting. Lab tests revealed chronic kidney disease. There was an increase in urine urgency. Back to the ER in October Vada experienced infections, rectal bleeding, urinary tract infections, COPD (she never smoked), gastritis, dizziness, and repeat UTI’s.
Vada Mae had been self-catheterizing to urinate since 2001 and told Mary urination was painful.
In August 2010 she was back in Raleigh General Hospital ER in Beckley WV, with cramping in the pelvic area. She had a kidney bacterial infection and UTI’s. Vada still had incontinence.
Two months later, it was back to the ER with a tear in her bladder and vaginal bleeding. Blood was found in her urine and she had MRSA. The source of the vaginal or rectal bleeding was never found. It never happened at the same time.
Mary says Vada was known as the Mystery Patient by every doctor because they could never find the source for her bleeding.
By August 2011, Vada Mae had been admitted to the ER five times for chronic infections, anemia, falls, UTIs.
Tests revealed her bacterial infections were resistant to multiple antibiotics. She entered a nursing home in November of that year. Vada Mae couldn’t walk or go to the bathroom on her own. She was on hydrocodone and bleeding constantly.
She was on a round of antibiotics and a urinalysis showed greater than 1,000 colonies of gram negative rods. She had grown resistant to Levaquin, Cipro and Bactrin. Dr Moshy said there was no more he could do. He gave her Vitamin c and said there was “no point in intervening on this lady.”
After that, Vada May was admitted to the ER every week until the end of her life.
In November 2014, Veda Mae saw an ad on television about the symptoms. She wrote it down. Vada told Mary, “I think this might be what’s wrong with me.”
So far, no one had identified the mesh as the culprit behind her ongoing chronic infections or her bleeding.
Mary contacted four law firms and she says every one of them wanted the case. One firm said 40%. That’s too much said Mary. Another wanted 33.3%. Mary went to the first firm and asked if it would match the 33.3%. They would, if it didn’t go to trial.
Mary, and her sister Ruth, went back to Dr. Moshy in early 2015 and said they wanted the mesh removed. He refused because it hadn’t eroded, there was nothing wrong with the mesh, Mary was told, and removal would do more harm than good. The records show,
“Cystoscopy was performed…..…there was a whole mass of papillary type inflammatory change around the trigone and around the ureteric orifices. I was able to see the left ureteric orifice with no difficulty. The right ureteric orifice was extremely difficult to see and covered with heaped up material…I was able to spot weld these areas and managed to control the bleeding.”
A new urologist, Dr. Lohri from Charleston, WV, found unidentified sediment in her bladder.
In a desperate bid to identify her problems doctors diagnosed chronic kidney disease stage 3, (an autopsy found no problem), and Parkinson's disease (a brain autopsy showed it was normal).
Vada Mae was identified with untreatable sepsis in September 2015. Superbugs they were called. Antibiotics would no longer work on the infections. The hospital could no longer match her blood, Type A+ because it was so altered from transfusions and antibodies, it had become slightly different blood.
A high fever and white blood cell count continued until her death.
ER visits now numbered at least 15 to 20 times a year, Mary says, until the end of Vada’s life.
Vada developed green sores, the same green in her catheter bag, says Mary. By August 2016 she went downhill. Vada wouldn’t wake up or talk. She was completely dehydrated; she wouldn’t drink or eat.
Despite her declining health, Vada knew her daughters. She would light up when they entered the room.
When Vada Mae died September 13, 2016, she was struggling with a 104 degree temperature and was fighting to breathe. Mary and Ruth asked for morphine but the nursing home was slow to respond. Mary says her mother was suffering at the end.
An autopsy revealed the cause of death was interstitial cystitis, chronic with multidrug resistant bacteria leading to multisystem failure. The bladder was three times its normal size. There were multiple areas of apparent bacterial colonization.
“Dense adhesions make dissection of the pelvic structures difficult, it says. “There is a palpable foreign body present in a dense scar on the anterior surface of the residual vagina.” A dissection found dark blue to brown thin band-like structures of densely and fibrotic tissue.
Mary is still grieving her mother and sister Ruth who died in January 2017 of atherosclerosis. The hospital report shows Ruth had acquired sepsis as well.
“I will give what I have left of my Mom-the untold and dismissed facts and records, of what a Powerful and Trusted Company, J&J has done to millions of women..... My Mom was literally tortured to death, by a 2 cent piece of odor-absorbing and odor-retaining piece of plastic, implanted in her with no turning back.”~ Mary Dickson
Meanwhile, Ethicon set the deposition of implanting physician, Dr. Lassere for November 16, but the case is stayed in an order by Judge Goodwin. He has given Mary Dickson until December 11th to find representation or proceed Pro Se.
Vada Mae Smith’s trial is set for next May 15th along with 150 remaining pelvic mesh cases naming defendant Ethicon, amassed in Wave 7 (here) before Judge Goodwin. The trials will be continuous until all 150 cases in Wave 7 cases are completed.
Vada Mae Smith would have been 75 years old on November 26.
Jan Urban has been reaching out online to other mesh-injured women for a decade trying to raise awareness about mesh injuries.
Dr. D. Veronikis is a St. Louis urogynecologist who is sought after internationally to remove polypropylene pelvic mesh and repair the damage it causes.
Mesh News Desk (MND) interviewed Dr. Dionysios Veronikis of the Vaginal Surgery and Urogynecology Institute of St. Louis. He is a leading mesh removal surgeon recognized internationally.