A young Linda Batiste
MND, August 31, 2015 ~
WHO WAS LINDA BATISTE?
The story of Linda Batiste’s life and death is best told by her only biological child, James Clinton, who shared a home with his mother and helped her through her final months before she died of brain and stomach cancer on Saturday, August 8.
Batiste, 65, was a pioneer among mesh-injured women. In April 2014, she was David in a Goliath-size standoff with Ethicon, a division of Johnson & Johnson, and the maker of the TVT-O (trans-obturator tape) she was implanted with in 2007 as a treatment for incontinence. After a three-week trial, the Dallas-based jury decided that J&J’s TVT-O mesh was defectively designed and awarded Batiste $1.2 million in compensatory damages. The healthcare giant immediately appealed the winning verdict. The family has not seen a dime. And, J&J’s TVT-O remains on the market.
Despite the landmark, precedent-setting decision, her son, James, says Linda remained the same humble person. During a recent visit to a doctor’s office, Linda was shocked when the staff had her picture on their computer desktops. “You’re kind of a big deal,” said Aaron Horton when Linda called to tell her of the day’s events. Horton became a friend of the family’s while covering the Batiste v. Ethicon trial for Mesh News Desk last year.
“Mother had no idea she was a living legend,” says her son.
In her last months, Linda lived in a Dallas apartment with her son. Clinton says his mother never regained her health after receiving the J&J TVT-O implant from Dr. James R. McNabb, a surgeon at Baylor University Hospital. Linda worked as a nurse until about 10 years ago. In 1990, she left her Deridder, Louisiana home to help James raise his children in Dallas. James had moved to Texas for a job as a telecommunications contractor.
James Clinton and his children
When Linda was diagnosed with cancer in April; it was medically deemed to be terminal, as it had invaded several vital organs.
“Mother had been sick off and on… heart, allergies, but the cancer, we didn’t know,” he says. “She had some surgeries to have mesh taken out, but still, there were days Mama couldn’t walk. She had a walker. Pastor Reese got her a wheelchair later on. We gave her pain medicine; it would temporarily help but never take the pain away- they never could that much. She couldn’t come up a flight of stairs to visit us.”
“Mother always liked helping people. She would take the first step toward a person to help, regardless of the way it would hurt her or not. That’s the way she was. She would make you smile and laugh even in the midst of her pain,” says James. “I’m still amazed she’s gone; I’m still amazed about the strength she had while dying.”
Linda was always thinking about other people, especially her caregiver son. “I was her arms, her hands, her feet, whatever she needed, I was her Mama. She needed me to be.”
Clinton’s oldest son, James “KC” Carheel, would help carry Linda, when she had no strength to stand. Granddaughter, Sara Clinton, would provide for her also, helping with medical needs and reading to her. Granddaughter, Tasha, would come over to read and sit with Linda. Two-year-old Trinity, Sara’s daughter, would make her smile as did five-year-old James Clinton Jr., who the family often calls “Lil’ Man.”
“Mother would always smile when she saw him; she would smile even when she couldn’t hardly speak, and when she heard his voice, she’d smile and make a sign to recognize him,“ remembers James. She also loved to hear her grandson, Joshua, sing. He would come over and sing to her, and she would encourage him to follow his heart and his dreams. Everyone in the family agrees: Joshua has a rare gift for singing. His voice was of great comfort to his grandmother, throughout her life, but also in her last days. (Click to hear Joshua sing or go to:
Others came over too: Ms. Patricia Williams, Linda’s best friend, helped day and night; as did Evelyn Gardenhire, Patricia’s daughter.
“We had Fay Harden, a nurse’s aide also here to help with mother as well. Our Pastors, Thomas and Phyllis Reese, were here as well. We needed that help, those prayers and physical support as well,” says Mr. Clinton.
The musical family is known to sing gospel hymns, and Horton says she too was drawn into singing with the most heavenly voices each family member displayed. Linda loved hymns, and the family sang every day until she passed. A keyboard, amp and set of drums still reside in a corner of Linda’s one-bedroom apartment, where the family still often breaks out into spontaneous singing.
Linda Batiste died at home on August 8. That was the way she wanted it.
James reflects fondly, “She believed in cooking for someone. Taking in people. Brought home youth around Joshua’s age who didn’t have nobody.” Josh is 24 now, but James recalls Linda’s kindness towards her grandson’s friends, even when Josh was in his teens. “Color, race, it didn’t matter. She was very diverse. They all called her ‘Grandmother.’”
Aaron says, “If you were around her, you became like an adopted child. She was like a mother to everyone. She had so much wisdom.”
Linda’s recipe for Gumbo was a family favorite along with chicken, smashed potatoes, macaroni and cornbread. She brought her Louisiana hospitality to her kitchen in the Lone Star State without missing a beat.
Aaron and Linda, April 2014
Did Linda Batiste realize she was a pioneer as the first woman whose trial found Johnson & Johnson’s TVT-O to be defectively designed?
Referring to her victory, Mr. Clinton says, “She didn’t make a big noise or celebration about it with us. She let us know she won and hoped others would be blessed as well. Those were her words – that other women will come out well including men who might also have mesh. She was grateful in general.”
The dignity continued even when attorneys representing Johnson & Johnson did what a defense team must do - attack the credibility of the plaintiff.
“It was horrific to witness one of the defense attorneys try to enter into evidence some incidents of past domestic violence against Linda, as some kind of proof somehow that her suffering from the mesh was related in some way, which is ridiculous,” says Horton. “The audacity of them trying to connect the two is disgusting. It really is. It’s unconscionable. Judge Molberg did not allow the information to be presented to the jury. He saw straight through it.”
Horton says Linda would sit up straight in her chair, on a pillow with her legs crossed under her chair and her hands on top of her cane. “As dignified as Audrey Hepburn,” Horton says describing her regal manner. “Linda was known to pray quietly to herself.” recalls Horton. “She never showed disdain or malice to the other side. She never even really looked at the other side of the courtroom.”
At the end of the day, it was another story.
“She would always say, ‘Pray and be careful for nothing,’ says James Clinton reciting the Bible verse Linda revered. She knew they were trying to hurt her in court by digging up her past. ‘Pray and be careful for nothing,’ she would always repeat,” he says.
A young woman in her 20s showed up at Linda’s memorial service, August 15. She too had been implanted with J&J’s TVT-O mesh - by the same Dallas doctor. She too was suffering. After reading an article about Linda in the Dallas Observer last May, she realized the connection the two had. The woman told Aaron, the story changed her life; that Linda changed her life by speaking out.
Linda died on Saturday, August 8, and a day later, her family posted a Go Fund Me fundraiser to rally extended family, friends and church members to help with the expenses for a funeral, which seemed far from possible at the time. Linda, and her family wished for her to be buried, which can quickly add up to thousands of dollars. At the request of the family, Horton, through The Mesh Warrior Foundation’s website also lobbied for funds from her own family, friends and the mesh community at-large, stating that 100% of the proceeds would go to the family for expenses for a traditional burial, including a headstone. “We also desperately needed funds for food, as Linda’s influence and impact was clearly widespread. Family and friends came to honor her, and we needed help to feed the immediate family and extended family, as mourners poured in to offer their condolences.”
“I asked Aaron to help us,” says James. “I gave her permission and my daughter, Sara, and son, Joshua, asked her. We were okay with it all. We still support Miss Aaron 100 times more and back. Miss Aaron is a part of the Clinton-Batiste family. She’s one of us. We took her in,” he says. Joshua Clinton, Ms. Batiste’s grandson, had spent time with Aaron after the trial and was trying to reach her during Linda’s last days. “My grandmother asked me to find Aaron. She told me Aaron would help – that Aaron would be there.”
Regretfully, as Joshua tried to contact Aaron, another person contacted the family. By Tuesday, both James and Joshua became aware that the unsolicited messages from another woman were not from Aaron or anyone affiliated with The Mesh Warrior Foundation. Two days after Linda died, the family was contacted via text message. Another message came from an unknown source through Facebook. A separate account, a false account, designed to look like Aaron’s The Mesh Warrior Facebook site, contributed to the family’s confusion. The imposter site led the family to believe they were messaging with Aaron when, in fact, they were delayed in reaching Aaron because of the confusion. Apparently, the “dummy” account had a picture of a blue, smurf-like creature on its home page, “Mesh Warrior,” an account which impersonated Horton’s page, which is called “The Mesh Warrior.” The two could be easily confused by anyone, Horton believes.
The advances, including Facebook posts, messages, and blogs, when put online, hurt the family’s momentum in raising funds through Horton’s website, erected with the family’s written approval – an effort to amplify the family’s message.
In a message sent to the family, the same unwelcome contact said,
“Ok I see you’ve contacted the “mesh warrior” … warning … she is a wacko who if you have a loved one with mesh problems will not be providing any useful information.” The family didn’t know the woman and asked Aaron if she knew her. Click here to see text message.
At Linda’s home on Monday morning Grandson, Joshua, Aaron, and the family began to put together the pieces. In thinking he was talking to someone from The Mesh Warrior Foundation, Joshua was deceived. “If not Miss Aaron herself was here, we wouldn’t know,” James says. (Disclosure, your editor is on the board of The Mesh Warrior Foundation, though I’ve never met Aaron in person). Among other false information, The Foundation has since found another “dummy” account, set up by someone, not Aaron, or anyone affiliated with The Mesh Warrior or The Mesh Warrior Foundation.
“On Monday, the family and I set out to find a way to raise funds to have a traditional burial for Ms. Batiste. We had the same goal: to honor her with the dignity and respect she deserved. By Monday evening, we had not raised enough funds even to cremate Ms. Batiste. By Tuesday, information had been circulated online that TMWF did not have the family’s permission to raise funds, which couldn’t be further from the truth. By Tuesday afternoon, we had raised $195 for a headstone and the immediately needs for food for the family. After the rumors began, not another dollar came in, and ultimately TMWF was only able to donate the $195 initially raised,” says Aaron Horton. “I was so disappointed for the family, because I know the TMWF community is filled with generous people who are united, a group of people that has such great power to help one another in the most desperate of times.”
Under the guidance of the family, Linda’s granddaughter, Sara, warned the unwelcome messenger, who also initiated the false information about fundraising efforts: “Do not use my grandmother’s name in any way.” The unwelcome messages stopped; however the damage had already been done.
“Still, we didn’t give up,” Aaron says.
Linda and grandchildren
At that point, Aaron began to call personal friends to ask for donated food and services to meet the family’s needs. “By the end of the week, we had an outpouring of community support, despite the rumors. Boston Restaurant and Sports Bar in Dallas donated generous portions of pizza, Jambalaya Pasta, Buffalo Wings and salads; and TMWF was able to work on behalf of the family with Linda’s property manager to get rental fees waived, for use of the apartment complex community room for the family gathering after the service. “I was so grateful, and the family and I celebrated at the generosity of the community here in Dallas. More than one plaintiff’s firm chipped in. TMWF also worked, together with the family, to make arrangements with Chamberland Funeral Home. “Chamberland, and its owners understood the uphill battle we faced, and they generously waived many fees to make a possible service more affordable. With all of us working together, we made it happen. It wasn’t an easy task, but we continued to believe the best about our neighbors, and they stepped up to honor Linda in a big way. It was truly amazing. All of us were overwhelmed with gratitude.”
Supportive and encouraging messages from women all over the world began pouring in - via text, blog posts, and phone calls. Women wanted the Clinton-Batiste family to know they cared. Women were also scared – worried about their own health, their own legal matters. Many wondered, “What does Linda’s death mean for my fate?” An even greater reality set in. The news of Linda’s passing left many mesh-injured women fearful in the shadow of the death of a woman they believed to be so strong.
Horton describes the tense few days before Linda’s memorial service, “After we overcame the damages of the false information about our fundraising efforts, a blog, authored by the same woman who launched the unwelcome messages, continued to make our remaining tasks even more difficult. After the family asked for the unwanted contact to stop; the messages stopped, but misleading and deceptive blog posts continued to skew the truth. One such blog said:
"There was a death a week ago in the mesh community. Someone placed in the spotlight for winning a million dollar lawsuit. Out of respect… I will never use her name. She deserves more dignity than being used for fame as the fame media vultures….. At the funeral. Smurf has apparently set her sights on making it her own personal advertising platform. Crappy ribbons have been made and are being pass out with her logo. This is a disgusting abuse of what people do who prey upon others.”
In actuality, the family demanded this woman NOT to use Linda’s name in association with her messages or writings.
“Another false and harmful outburst,” Aaron says about the incident. “I was having dinner with the family when James showed me a Facebook message from this unknown woman, and I hung my head thinking, “Oh, my gosh, I have inadvertently brought a most unwelcome and harmful person into this family’s life, but James assured her saying, “You look at me Miss Aaron. This family knows the difference between right and wrong and don’t you worry about that. We love you and you are welcome in our family.”
“I was speechless because of the genuine nature and kindness of this family,” says Aaron. “I was also speechless at the behavior of this woman, who continued to harm the family of a mesh-injured woman, a family she doesn’t know. A casserole or a card sent with condolences would have been the kind and appropriate action to take in this situation. There is no question that the unwelcome advances confused and troubled this family, and during their most vulnerable time. In the end, the trouble caused made little difference when compared to the enormous impact of the goodness and provision that came as a result of those who surrounded this family with generosity; with words of encouragement; with real friendship; and financial assistance.”
CONDOLENCES COME IN
On August 15, in the small sanctuary at Macedonia Baptist Church, supportive comments from women all over the world were read. It honored Linda. It educated people. It reminded everyone just how big of a legacy this small-framed woman left. A sampling of the sentiments, read at from the mesh-injured community, read at Linda’s Celebration of Life, are below:
LK - So Sad To See This...My Prayers And Thoughts Are With Her Family And Friends...She Left Us Way Too Soon...
DW - My condolences (Innige deelneming) to the family and friends......it's too soon....
JLJ - Heart breaking. Prayers for her family and all who loved her…
SH - Prayers for her family. When I seen her story one night searching about mesh that got me started understanding the dangers I was in due to mesh.
Rest in peace
AV - Reading the article about her trial listing our doctor gave me the power and strength to make a doctor listen to me that this mesh was hurting my body in many ways. After I read her article I went right to the hospital to get my records. Without physically knowing her or ever talking, she has greatly changed my life. I owe so much to her!
HZ - So sad to hear this! She was brave and strong through her fight. The tribute is beautiful.
FL - Father god spared her from feeling any more pain - that he called upon her to come home, she is with the lord now. May her soul rest in peace. Amen.Sister...
NJ - I went for my annual checkup Thursday. I was told a year ago by my OB-GYN that the time had come to seriously consider mesh as the answer to my prolapse. As I sat in the parking lot, dreading the ride in the elevator up to see the doctor, I was checking my emails and saw the notice you sent the day before regarding Linda Batiste. What a sweet face; and I’m sure a sweet person. I’m so sorry. This email gave me the courage to tell the doctor ‘No’ when she asked if I was ready to “get this over with.” I don’t know if you realize the impact you have on troubled, prolapsed lives…You are our eyes, ears and voices as we wait for a safe alternative.
“These are but a few of the hundreds of beautiful comments of love and encouragement that were sent by our suffering community,” says Horton.
TO BE REMEMBERED
While the J&J/Ethicon appeal is slowing moving through the court, the family cannot talk about the case or jury award. However, nothing is stopping James from picking up where his mother left off. He wants to join the global fight against mesh injuries that continue today, to bring awareness where the media has failed.
“I would like my mother to be remembered in a small way for winning a shield of justice for all women around the world, regardless of mesh, cancer, violence or domestic abuse, she’s a shield for all woman. She speaks from the grave. She stood in front of them - all the women - who will follow what she did.”
James would like the world to know the family will win any appeal, and the other women, whose verdicts have also been appealed (the cases of Ms. Gross case, Ms. Husky, Ms. Perry) will also win theirs.
“I would like women around the world to say, “’I am Linda Batiste,’ that her name would be remembered. Anybody can still come out victorious. They can say it now. . . around the world, set a day to say ‘I am Linda Batiste,’ because they all share the same pain. Our family still has to figure how to go on with birthday, holidays. I believe if every woman around the world [could] one time say, “I am Linda Batiste,’ judges, juries, doctors - everybody will hear one time. . . [That] will show grace and mercy for the other women. Mother has the spirit of David from her grave; she is still calling out. The whole world will know her as a person as small as she was, an ordinary woman. Let every other woman know the giant still can be defeated with justice.” #
Mesh News Desk, August 14, 2015, Linda Batiste Mesh-Trial Pioneer to be Laid to Rest
Mesh News Desk, April, 2014, Batiste's Trial Ends with $1.2 Million Jury Award
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