Mary Dickson Reports on her Depo with J&J

Jane Akre
October 3, 2018

Mary Dickson after depo

Mesh Medical Device News Desk, October 3, 2018 ~ Mary Dickson claims her mother died from the complications of her two Johnson & Johnson mesh implants. She is taking her case forward Pro Se, without an attorney after she parted ways with two firms. Tuesday, October 2, she was deposed by J&J.

This story is recounted from Mary Dickson and her husband, Rick.

You may never have endured a deposition.

Mary Dickson did Tuesday in her Pro Se (without an attorney) case against Johnson & Johnson. Mary is carrying on her mother’s wrongful death, defective product case against the healthcare giant (2:15-cv-02800 Dickson v. Ethicon, So. District of West Virginia).

Ethicon is the medical device division of Johnson & Johnson (J&J).

Vada Mae Smith

Vada Mae Smith died in 2016 from massive infections and organ failure. She had been implanted with two pelvic meshes, both made by J&J to treat her incontinence.

An autopsy finally found one blue mesh deeply embedded in scar tissue and in her bladder. No doctor could ever find the mesh and she went along for years as the Mystery Patient with no one diagnosing what was causing her infections, leg weakness, and pain.

Susan Robinson, Combs Spann for J&J

Mary was deposed by Susan Robinson, of Combs & Spann law firm in Charleston, WV. She is a former Assistant United States Attorney and Chief of the White Collar Crime Section, according to her bio on the website.

Husband, Rick says he was very proud of Mary. Without notes she rattled off dates, names, and lot numbers from her keen memory and years of research into her mother’s medical past.

Robinson had printed out all of Mary’s stories on Mesh News Desk. Mary was asked about a conversation in the comments section with Still Standing. Robinson wanted to know if they had ever met. Mary said she’d never met anyone in person, just on the internet.

Please understand the lawyers for mesh makers do watch what you say online.

Mary, Rick and her nephew left their home in Covington, VA to drive to Lewisburg, WV for the 1 pm deposition. The drive took about 35 minutes and at approximately 2,200 feet elevation, the area is still green but getting ready to burst into warm fall foliage.

Also present was a court reporter, a video camera operator, and another woman who said nothing. Mary was told she couldn’t record anything. Her nephew had to wait outside but Rick was allowed to sit in on the deposition.

Tuesday night I asked Mary, “How were you feeling?”

“I was cool a cucumber.”

“I thought you were nervous, I asked.

Mary said she felt exhausted but she wanted to recount the way she felt going into the deposition.

“I think about Sela every day. She was my grandfathers’ mom. Sela Ellen Boon, a Cherokee. She married Ruben Sears, my grandfather’s dad. She sat on the porch and smoked a pipe in the late 1800’s. She lived in Monroe and Summers Co. West Virginia, the southernmost counties of West Virginia and right on the border of several states, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Vada Mae Smith

“I talk to them a lot especially at night. I look at the skies and I can feel them looking down at me. Mother too. Mother is the only person ever passed away who showed up in a dream right before (her sister) Ruthie died. Mother was sitting on a hospital bed and had her gown on, feet on the floor.

She took her oxygen off and said, ‘Mary you are doing good.’

“And I woke straight up out of bed. Usually I don’t wake up for nothing, I woke Rick up. I was so excited.

“I felt so sad I had to have Mom cremated. She didn’t get the type of service I wanted to give her. I’m so glad Jesus came and got her.

“After I talked to you the other night, I started breaking down that I couldn’t do it. You thought I’d do really good. When I woke up I was just at peace about it."



Robinson started out strong.

What if I was to tell you that it was not the TVT-Blue that was put in your mother, Mary says she was told.

Mary replied, "It's your GyneCare (J&J) stamp on the OR record, that describes the device in my mother."

How do you have proof, Robinson asked.

I’ve got it in my vehicle, Mary says she replied.

Mary first found her mother’s medical records showing she had been implanted with a TVT (tension-free vaginal tape) in 2001, specifically the TVT Blue System was implanted 70 days before it cleared the FDA for marketing.

Mary made it clear to Robinson, the lot numbers are different.

A TVT-Blue had a lot number of #810041, the TVT clear was #830041 (update here). It matched her mother’s OR report. There is one number different between them.

Mary tells MND, “She tried to suggest it was the TVT clear. That was it legal. The TVT Blue she had implanted wasn’t!”

“I stood my ground on the TVT-Blue and I have the Ethicon printout to prove that.”

Mary says, “That’s a big deal. I tried to tell my lawyers that and they wouldn’t listen to me.”

Mary says Robinson’s reaction showed she seemed a bit rattled. Her husband, Rick agrees.

Where did you get this? Robinson reportedly asked about the TVT Blue printout.

Mary answered after Vada’s autopsy, when Dr. Nichols (pathologist) said it was Blue, she started looking at her mother’s device number. She printed out documentation on TVT-Blue, all 175 pages of it.

“You can’t find it anymore on their website, and you can’t pull it off the FDA site," Mary claims.

Robinson said she needed to take a little break and got on the phone.

When Mary returned from the break, Robinson was still on the phone.

Rick tells MND he was really proud of Mary then.

bladder from autopsy

“She kept her cool and took her time to answer the questions, slowly enough so everybody understood it. She didn’t even use notes. The attorney was a little shook up over the Blue TVT.”

Mary didn’t bring up the autopsy photos that clearly show a blue ribbon of mesh remnant weaving through a portion of Vada’s bladder.

Mary, Vada Mae and Ruth


Mary had never heard of proctitis but Susan Robinson asked about it, allegedly found in Vada’s colonoscopy report.

Proctitis is an inflammation of the rectum and anus caused by a bacterial or viral infection.

‘Did any doctor ever tell you your mother had proctitis? Did any doctor say mesh caused any of that?’ Robinson reportedly asked Mary.

Did they find any mesh in her colon where the proctitis was?

“I wasn’t aware,” Mary replied, “but I will look it up now.”


All of the Mesh News Desk stories referring to Mary Dickson and Vada Mae Smith were printed out “like a little neat book,” and presented to Mary.

Robinson asked what Mary told me (your editor) about her mother’s case and whether I gave her any advice?

Mary says she answered, “No mam, she never gave me advice. She was always a confidant and she encouraged me as she does all mesh victims and families. This was about telling mom’s story. I know that’s what moms' greatest wish was to help other people because of what she went through. I felt those women deserved to hear my mother’s story. I ran it through my attorney first and got permission.”

How did you communicate? Emails and phone. Do you have those, Robinson inquired.

I have them in my computer Mary said. We might need them, Robinson reportedly replied.


Fibrotic Scar Tissue from Vada Mae Smith

Mary says she also told Ms. Robinson about Dr. Patrick Ryan and her mother’s referral to hospice. Because of the many transfusion and UTI’s, Vada had become resistant to antibiotics; that was the reason for her referral to hospice.

In order to be referred, a patient has to have less than six months to live. Dr. Ryan is a pediatrician and hospitalist. Mary says he did not identify what was killing Vada, all he knew is she was resistant to all antibiotics and didn’t have a long time left to live.

There is no code for a mesh-related injury so he referred Vada to hospice using the code for Parkinson's disease.

Mary says, “I became very upset I realized mesh in place was not being taken seriously. I wanted the victims to know my mother did suffer and die and her mesh was “in place” but doctors couldn’t find it. They did a CAT scan, MRI, and colonoscopy. We kept thinking it was a bad disease, thought it was cancer, but it wasn’t.'

“Her doctors were at the point where the only thing to check was her small intestine they hadn’t checked for bleeding so we took her to hospital, she swallowed a camera and it came out clear. There was no reason for the bleeding.”

Robinson asked what about her hemorrhoids. Mary answered Vada would bleed and need 4 units of blood. “Hemorrhoids don’t do that!” Mary says she answered.


Mary told Robinson she has forwarded her mother’s story onto the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for an investigation. There is no doubt in her mind, the TVT Blue was put in before it was supposed to be put in. Mary insists they broke the law by doing that.

“We went over and over it. She was acting like it was grandfathered in because it’s the same material that’s been used in sutures for years. A stitch as opposed to a mesh is a whole different ballgame.”

Mary also has an appointment to meet with a local prosecutor to explore the wrongful death of her mother.


Mary and husband, Rick

“I bet you’re glad it’s over,” I asked Mary.

“I feel like I just hiked a whole mountain. I didn’t poop my pants. Or faint. I started crying one time, something about mother. That kind of touched my heart. She was always very sad. She had always had a rough life. She (Robinson) gave me a break.”


*PostScript* Mary’s case is still filed in multidistrict litigation in Charleston West Virginia. (2:15-cv-02800 Dickson v. Ethicon. Inc. et al.)

I was not among the thousands of cases dismissed without prejudice among women with mesh in place only. See (PTO #293) . They are given five years to have a revision or removal surgery before they can refile.

Mary says her mother obviously didn’t fit into the group because she had died.



MND, Daughter Fighting Late Mother’s Pelvic Mesh Case, November 27, 2017

MND, West Virginia Woman Hopes to go it Alone in Mesh Case Against J&J, April 24, 2018

Pre-Trial Order #293 concerning mesh-in-place

(PTO #293) Dismissing cases from the MDL

PTO # 269 Docket Concerning Wave 7

Southern District of West Virginia

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