Jeff Silverman: Suffering in Silence Over Hernia Mesh Pain

Jane Akre
|
November 12, 2011

Silverman is one of many men who finds himself disregarded. Not only do medical doctors not believe his pain following a mesh implant to treat a hernia, but the FDA has omitted men from its two warnings about the serious adverse events that can result from the synthetic implant. He has taken his frustration to Facebook opening a group "Victims of Hernia/Vaginal Mesh Surgery" (here) .

Here's what he says:

"I have started this group because of an ongoing medical situation in this country that is causing many people a lot of harm, pain, grief, and a deterioration of the quality of our lives and no one seems to care except a handful of doctors. I’m talking about the damage that is being caused by the mesh products that are being used to "repair" hernias for both men and women, as well as the vaginal mesh and "bladder slings" being used on women. These horrible products are taking otherwise healthy people and, for the lack of a better term, screwing up our lives for the long haul.”
“In October of 2009 I had surgery to repair an inguinal hernia on my right side and I’ve been in constant testicular and leg pain ever since with limited mobility. In fact, I’m in more pain now than before the operation and the doctors involved with my case as well as the hospital are taking no responsibility. I have found thousands of online posts by people from all over the country who are going through the same thing, and getting the same attitude from their own doctors.”

Silverman's Story

Jeff Silverman, 51, lives in Las Vegas and is currently disabled and unemployed. For 15 years he was a blackjack dealer. He believes that the years he spent, slightly leaning over a table to deal cards and take the money, caused his hernia. He had lived with hernia pain for awhile and called it “an annoyance” but then in June 2009 the pain got worse and so did the hernia. With no insurance benefits through his work, he signed up with the country to receive medical benefits and went to the public hospital, University Medical Center (UMC), to see whichever doctor happened to be on call.

He ended up with an oncologist who performed his hernia surgery on October 12, 2009.

Silverman was told the operation was safe and routine and he’d be up and out in a month or so,

no problem.

“I’ve had surgery four or five times and I heal quickly with no infections so I knew what to

expect. As soon as I opened my eyes I knew there was more post-op pain than I had ever felt. I

knew something was wrong,” he said.

“It felt like a brick was left inside my gut.”

Silverman says he waited in recovery until he opened his eyes and in 20 minutes he was

escorted out of the clinic.

A week and a half after the surgery, Silverman says he was still in a lot of pain and returned to

the surgical center. Another doctor was on the rotation that day. He told the doctor it felt like

the ends of a rubber band when the center is being pulled.

“Nobody got it because none was a hernia specialist,” says Silverman, though he asked to see such a specialist, he says he was denied.

Silverman later found he had received the PerFix Plug by C.R. Bard. Though he was healing on

the outside the pain never went away. “It wasn’t just the pain, it’s knowing the feeling of having a foreign object in the body, in the whole midsection,” he says, “with an intense pain on the right side radiating pain into my groin down the right thigh into the abdomen.

All points of pain are leading toward the incision,” he says.

A return to the UMC and yet another doctor injected lidocaine to see if there was any nerve

damage. The doctor never came back into the room. Instead the nurse came in with a

prescription for nerve medication.

Furious with the lack of specialist care and a general lack of follow through, Silverman wrote

a letter of complaint to the CEO of UMC. In response he received a letter from the public relations department that the doctors overseeing his care were not directly employed by UMC.

Never mind that in 2010, the Las Vegas Sun did a series of investigative reports (here) reports on UMC's substandard care, including turning away a woman in labor who gave birth to a baby who died soon after being born.

It was now February 2010 and Silverman was sickened, not just with pain, but by the treatment he received. By this time he had seen four doctors in the surgical center and two in the emergency room on two different occasions. There was no follow up by any of them. No news outlet was interested in his story, the hospital did not want to forward his case to a specialist.

The final insult added to his injury - he could not receive narcotics for the pain.

“They refused to admit there is a problem, it’s a huge Catch 22. Everybody was trying to make

me think I’m crazy, Silverman says. “The nurse actually said to me ‘you can’t be in that much

pain’ when she refused to let me see a hernia specialist.”

For its part, Bard says its PerFix Plug has been used in four million procedures and has a chronic pain complication rate of less than 0.5% (here).

Silverman says to MDND, “Something I want to make absolutely clear because it's something

you brought up several times and has become such a huge issue lately, the subject of narcotic

painkillers would not have been anything to even think twice about 20 years ago or even 5

years ago, but because so many people are abusing them now, the rest of us have to pay the

price. Most doctors have taken the low road and refuse to prescribe and many people, like me

who truly need them are now paying the price for the actions of others.”

Silverman will be 52 next month. He says he can’t go back to dealing cards. He lives with his

mother, who is almost blind and his father, a cancer survivor. A sister lives in Florida.

“The pain is there all the time, it never goes away. It’s there with every step I take every

movement. I can drive but it hurts. I’m not on disability and there is no workers’ compensation. I would take pain pills if I had them but I take over-the-counter stuff for pain, Tylenol and aspirin.”

He researched a medical malpractice lawsuit, but has been advised that the doctors followed a

'standard of care', maybe not a good standard, but one nonetheless. The FDA’s notification about the complications associated with surgical mesh, made from the same polypropylene as his Perfix Plug, only identify problems in women treated with mesh, not men.

A year ago March he went online and found hernia specialist and surgeon, Dr. Kevin Petersen,

whose clinic, No Insurance Surgery, is in Las Vegas. Dr. Petersen has a particular interest in non-mesh hernia repair and treatment of hernia mesh complications and although he has removed mesh and plugs in many hernia patients, he says some removals are impossible. Dr. Petersen told Silverman he might be able to get the mesh out but there could be too many complications. In the worst case scenario, he could lose a testicle even if the surgery is performed perfectly.

Silverman says, “The Perfix Plug has been linked to nerve entanglement, and is under scrutiny

because of reports of many post-operative complications including shrinkage, detachment, and its migration to other parts of the body where it can cause damage to other organs and nerves.

“Needless to say I’m scared to death, and I can’t get the doctors involved to take me seriously.”

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