Trudy Thomas (right) and her daughter Kandace
Trudy Thomas is 53-years-old and the song, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all,” might be her anthem.
Thomas lives in Cascade, Colorado near Colorado Springs and halfway through our profile interview, she had to flee her mountain cabin.
Flames invaded the canyons around her home where she lives alone with her dog, Blackjack. For several days she was on the road, sleeping in her car, at her daughter’s house and out of communication.
She had no idea whether the modest one bedroom wooden mountain cabin she calls home would be there when she returned as the entire Manitou Springs area was wiped out by fire that started a mile from her home in Waldo Canyon.
Thomas is now back at home which was spared except for the soot damage inside which was cleaned up with the donation of supplies from the Red Cross.
We returned to our earlier conversation about her hernia mesh injury and the settlement offer she has received. If a plaintiff ever was led to believe a settlement would make them whole, Trudy’s story might serve as a wake-up call.
Editors Note* Thomas was represented by two law firms but she produced a certified letter she sent to the attorneys dismissing them from the case. She no longer wants to be represented and has refused the low five-figure settlement.
On December 6, 2006, Thomas had Kugel mesh, sold by C.R. Bard, implanted to treat a hernia. The Colorado Springs native had been helping an elderly couple stay out of a nursing home while Thomas was recovering from a bout of cancer of her cervix, stomach and ovaries.
“I had no education after high school and was unable to get Medicare and Medicaid. They just dropped me. I had no idea why. They (the couple) were helping me get back on my feet,” she tells MDND.
Upon moving the man out of a chair, she felt her hernia. She was fitted with the Kugel Mesh Hernia Repair Patch. But almost immediately Thomas could tell the Kugel mesh was not going to be a good fit.
“I couldn’t tolerate the pain. I kept going back in the hospital. It was January 1, it was a holiday. I went into respiratory failure. The tissue surrounding the Kugel mesh had died due to gangrene. I don’t remember much about that time period. I remember screaming in pain,” she says today.
Thomas was in intensive care with a perforated bowel and partial obstruction. Her gallbladder also turned gangrenous she says and had to be removed.
Five surgeries and six weeks in the hospital later, Thomas had the Kugel mesh removed when her surgeon said it was the cause of the infection. The mesh was not saved so she has no idea if the ring broke, the cause of many Kugel mesh complications and the basis for the larger Kugel settlements.
“The surgeon said your body didn’t take to it.”
By then a friend has brought to her attention the Kugel mesh claims being filed across the country. Thomas got on the internet. With a few inquires, she suddenly found “every attorney wanted to take my case.”
Even without Kugel mesh, Thomas says the Kugel mesh mess continues.
“Since then I’ve had eight bowel obstructions, all of them adhesions which are now strangling my bowel,” she said adding that she has lost over half of her intestines. Thomas says she can never be far from a toilet. Unable to work she has lived on Social Security disability and Medicare and Medicaid. Thomas says she receives about $650 a month in assistance and $150 a month in food stamps, barely enough to keep her in the uninsulated summer cabin or pay for the cost of a space heater in bedroom and gas heater in the living room during the colder months. Not to mention food.
Shortly after the introduction of the Composix Kugel mesh patch in 2002 problems began to emerge. The ring, which was design to spread the large patch once inserted, was breaking, causing complications in users. Initially Davol, the manufacturer and a subsidiary of C.R. Bard, Inc, blamed the doctors for the injuries, but by December 2005, the FDA ordered a recall of the Bard Composix Kugel Mesh Hernia Repair Patch. The recall was updated in March, 2006 and again in January 2007 after the FDA found several fatalities and more than 80 injuries resulted from the Kugel hernia patch.
The first lawsuits were filed in Rhode Island in December 2006.
By July 17, 2008, Thomas joined the Kugel mesh litigation filing her case in Superior Court in Rhode Island, the home state of C.R. Bard. Her complaint requested a trial by Jury.
One mile from Thomas' Home
On July 6, 2011, C.R. Bard Inc. extended a settlement offer totaling about $184 million to settle 2,600 lawsuits with injuries that ranged from death to intestinal fistulas, sepsis, and bowel perforation, among other complications.
Although the conditions of the Kugel mesh settlement are confidential, online websites host chats among those plaintiffs on the receiving end of the settlement who largely express dissatisfaction.
Originally, many stated they would not sign onto the defective product settlement.
Thomas received a smaller settlement because it was believed her Kugel mesh ring did not break.
Before the settlement was announced, and fearing she would be homeless, Thomas took out a $5,000 lawsuit-related loan to pay some bills and keep the lights on. She says she was told a settlement was forthcoming so she felt she could handle the $400 a month in interest payment.
“I figures if I was getting a settlement in a few months it would be worth the risk. I needed the money really bad and I took a chance believing my attorney on this. I had to do it.”
In March 2010 she got the loan, which after initial fees was only $3,500 in cash. By June of 2012, the loan with interest had swelled to $15,000.
“I said right away I’m not taking it. I want to go to trial,” says Thomas today. “They kept leading me on. Now I want out of it because I’m getting cut down on my food stamps and disability until I have proof that I did not accept the money,” she says.
Thomas says her food stamps were reduced to $89 a month and Social Security is now down to $650 every month.
“I have to pay utilities, I’m about to get evicted. I’ll probably have to live in my car. I don’t know.”
In response she sent a notarized and certified letter to all attorneys and law firms involved (there are two) refusing the Kugel Mesh settlement.
Thomas says the law firm calls and writes her constantly to take the settlement. She is also told she cannot file bankruptcy because the loan was an “investment” and cannot be dismissed as other debts are in bankruptcy.
“I’m getting bills by the millions from Medicare they want me to pay back. I’ve had 17 surgeries after Kugel mesh and it’s all Kugel-mesh related. “
As if the fires were not enough, last month Thomas was once again run out of her home by Mother Nature. Fountain Creek in Cascade began creeping dangerously close to her home and her road was washed out making travel by car impossible. During our conversation she said she might have to put on a backpack and take Blackjack and head from higher ground. Thomas got a 911 warning call to evacuate from the nearby Colorado Springs police department.
“I had no way to get out” Then the electricity went out, which affected the well. I didn’t have any water. I just buckled down and went to bed,” she says adding that her phone got wet and she was out of communication for two weeks.
“I went down to the creek yesterday, furniture is washing down, lumber, it’s bad back there.”
But fortunately her home was spared.
Trudy and her daughter
“I’m just mad. I’m on the toilet 24 hr a day. It’s so depressing for me. I hardly have any intestines left and I’m not eating or sleeping properly. I couldn’t possibly work, I wish I could. The lady at Social Security said if I claimed I was suicidal I could get more money. That’s not me I refused that.”
“I just want this to stop and to get my benefits back to where I was. I’m a really energetic person and try to be happy person most of the time but this is taking my integrity, self esteem to where I’m getting low in life. I’ve got so much to offer in this world, I really do and it’s taking everything from me. I’ve been trying to find a church close by, just to be by God. I got into this case by the belief it would not affect my disability. Even if I got $2 million, one surgery would wipe me out.”
Postscript- Thomas supplements her food by eating from her garden and relies on food pantries to supplement her food supply. She is still in a waiting mode and still refusing the Kugel settlement. Thomas says she wishes she had never heard of a settlement. Meanwhile she is feeling well enough and is looking at a part-time job at a nearby school.
“I still feel like I have so much to offer, I just want to get back on my feet. I’m due a good turn,” she says. #