Richard Howden at Telluride Film Festival 2011
My name is Richard Howden. I got a Hernia while working in November of 2006. It was not much of a Hernia as Hernia's go. It was a Right Inguinal which is quite common.
The worker’s compensation insurance sent me to a local general surgeon who determined I had a hernia and I was scheduled for surgery 5 days later. It was not my first hernia on the right side. I had a hernia "stitched" old school style in Tacoma, Washington in 1993 and this is what I expected for my latest hernia repair in Montrose, Colorado. I was not told that my repair would include a mesh product and, even if I had, I do not know if I would have said no or not.
I have talked to many mesh victims that have gone through the same experience. So five days later I had surgery with a Mesh Implant of Prolene Mesh manufactured by Ethicon. I felt great for the first six months. It was then that I started to not feel well, had pains in the surgical area with itching and redness.
I contacted the worker’s compensation insurance to get permission to see the doctor again concerning the increasing problems I was experiencing. It took a couple of months but I finally got to see another doctor as my surgeon would not return my calls. By October of 2007 I was very sick and in quite a bit of pain.
By January of 2008 I had lost 40 lbs and could not eat and could barely walk because of what was being done to me by the mesh. I was able to have the Prolene removed but the new surgeon replaced it with a Small Kugel Oval with Ring to repair the hole left by the removal.
I am in constant pain; my right side is bulged out a few inches and my life as I knew it is over.
Does this sound familiar to you? Have you or a loved one been impacted by a mesh implant? Do you have a lawyer or are looking for one? What are your expectations with your lawsuit? Are you expecting a "Large Cash Settlement"?
Well, I would like to discuss this with you, if I could.
It is the expectation of anyone that has been implanted with a medical device, whether a pacemaker, hip replacement or a surgical mesh product that that medical device goes bad and it does damage and has to be removed, that you are protected under the law and you should be able to sue the manufacturer for damages and suffering.
Many mesh victims are finding that what is normal with most medical devices is not the rule for a mesh product. All mesh products are made of the same petroleum based chemical whether gynecological or hernia. There are many, many mesh products for all sorts of purposes. It is truly amazing how many products there are that are made of the same material as your garbage can or plastic lawn chair that are being implanted in patients all over the world.
Now imagine that the FDA came out tomorrow and recalled mesh and any products of the same material. Imagine that they had to admit that Hernia and Gynecological Mesh was dangerous for human implant and that victims should seek medical attention now. Whether a mesh recipient was having a problem with their implant or not they would run to their surgeon then to their lawyer. The manufacturers would be bombarded by lawsuits and would probably claim bankruptcy. The Insurance companies would be hit by claims to the point where they may have to do the same.
The FDA would have to explain why it has taken so long to recognize and then to tell the public about the dangers of mesh. I believe it is because of these factors and a few others that the FDA will have to be taken screaming and kicking into Court before a total mesh recall would be published.
But I digress.
You or your loved one has been harmed by mesh. You want to sue. Here are a few things you must consider about your case. Do you have medical documentation by your doctor or surgeon that shows that your mesh did go bad and caused all the problems you are now going through? Would they testify in your behalf that the mesh did all the damage? Do you have the actual mesh saved and frozen or pictures of the mesh accompanied by a pathologist report indicating that it was indeed the mesh that did all of your damage?
How long has it been since your implant and your knowledge of the mesh causing you harm? Do you have any other medical problems that have caused you to have surgeries in the same area as the mesh but not because of the mesh? Are you diabetic? Are you over weight? Are you a smoker? Do you drink? Do you have a record of illegal drug use? Have you been incarcerated?
These are just part of the questions that you need to ask yourself because they are questions that will be asked about the veracity of your case.
If you are looking for a lawyer you may have heard recently the advertisements by lawyer's saying that there was an $11 million dollar settlement "for a mesh case" and "you too could get a cash settlement.” Although that case was brought by a woman that had horrible damage done to her by a gynecological mesh and repeated removal surgeries, her settlement was not granted because the mesh was found defective. The settlement came from the jury deciding that the manufacturer failed to provide adequate warning to her doctor and made a fraudulent misrepresentation to the mesh victim. That was the cause of her injuries. The case included $7.76 in punitive damages to send Johnson and Johnson a message and to discourage their behavior. This case is under appeal.
And here is where I come to the crux of the mesh problem. The FDA has published very little in the way of Alerts about mesh. Yes, it has published two warnings about TVT/Gyno/Vaginal Mesh but it has not issued a recall even though there are thousands of complaints.
All mesh settlements are now being handled through a Court system called an M.D.L. or Multi District Litigation. Instead of a thousand small proceedings over several states concerning one mesh product, one large lawsuit is convened in a district court making it easier for the manufacturer, the courts and the lawyers to sit down and come to a determination.
It is VERY difficult and expensive to get a single case into court much less into the settlement phase. This is why most mesh cases are being handled this way. If you do have a lawyer, he/she may have talked to you about this. Your lawyer will probably never enter that court room. He/she will hand over their cases to a lawyer deemed by the Court as the Plaintiffs Attorney of Representation.
It is then this law firm that will not only represent you but also a thousand or more other victims. Your case will have to be scrutinized to determine if you are a worthy client. Go back to the questions I asked earlier. Those questions are now focused on your case. Not only your viability as a client but whether or not your injuries "fit" the boundaries of the mesh case and effectually within the guidelines needed for the case. If you do not fit their "criteria" or the "perimeters" that have been set up by the courts and accepted by the manufacturer, your particular case will be thrown out.
It does not matter that you have been waiting for 6 months or 3 years, your chance at a settlement is now over. If your case is accepted however, you will then be categorized as to the extent of the damage done to you. You will then be paid whatever sum the Court and the Manufacturers have deemed you are worth according to your category.
Congratulations, you now have a settlement!
But hold on there! Did Medicaid or Medicare pay for your surgeries? You may be the target of subjugation. Subjugation is when your settlement is subject to being used to pay what Medicaid/Medicare paid out for your surgery. What!? But you did not agree to that! Too bad, you do not have a choice in this matter as many settlement "winners" have found out.
I have talked to two mesh victims who did not accept the settlement offered to them but are being sued by the Treasury Department anyway. They want you to pay for your surgery and you have won a "Substantial Monetary Settlement"! It does not matter that you have pain, suffering and have lost your livelihood or your home.
After all of this and you still have money coming let’s hope that the manufacturers do not make a plea thereby delaying a settlement that could take years if ever to be received. In 6 1/2 years I have been turned down or dropped by every major law firm in the U.S. I am now way past the Statute of Limitations for my State. I also have had 2 different meshes which complicate my case considerably and again, no one wants to get involved. I am not alone in this situation as there are literally thousands of mesh victims whether they know it or not that will never get representation, compensation or retribution.
So, Dear Mesh Victim, please, before you put all your hopes and dreams in a somewhat normal life after you have "Won a Substantial Monetary Settlement" realize that the lawyers are making more money collectively than you will possibly get from a lawsuit.
The possibility of you getting enough money to keep you and your family solvent is almost nil. Until the FDA comes out and recalls your mesh or my mesh or ALL Mesh, we as Mesh Victims have little chance of ever getting that "Substantial" settlement.
I will write again at a later date about mesh settlements and will expand the topic to include the lawyers, the courts, the judges and the manufacturers that are involved with the upcoming M.D.L.'s. I will also introduce you to victims that have been to court and will let them tell you how it went for them.
Please make a report to the FDA MAUDE data base if you have not done so.
Best Wishes, Richard M. Howden (aka, All Meshed Up)
Post Script* I do work as a Surveillance Tech still although if I climb ladders for a couple of days I pay for it by being curled up in a ball for a day or two afterwards. But I cannot get SSI because I am too active. I am on Food Stamps and at one point was getting a very small stipend for the disabled and needy. Until a little over a year ago I was living in a converted garage with a wood stove and I hauled water to wash and flush the toilet. I have a Service related disability that gives a little bit of cash monthly. I was nominated for a Purple Heart last year because of injuries in 1976. If I get that I will have full benefits and a pension. But since I was implanted with Mesh my life is no longer what it was. I will not give up the things I love to do until my body will no longer allow me to do them. Like it or not that is my life now. It's not what I had in mind for being 57 years old.
Richard Howden Radio Interview