Raising awareness on Breast Implant Illness

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 11:00 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Many women get breast implants to improve their appearance and their confidence. But sometimes.. Women can fall severely ill after getting them.

“I was a professional bikini model,” said Breast Implant Illness survivor Francine Slobodnick. “I did numerous shows from winning the Arnold classic in 2012 to turning pro and becoming IFBB professional athlete.”

Slobodnick went from being at the top of her game, Strutting her stuff; to barely being able to stand.

“It’s really hard to pinpoint when I got sick,” said Slobodnick. “But i would say around 2019 is when I really started to get sick. From tremors to night sweats, you name it I had it.”

After going to doctor’s appointments, Francine couldn’t find a reason for her aliments; until social media led her to a support group for women suffering from Breast Implant Illness.

“A lot of girlfriends of mine had implants and had them removed and felt better,” said Slobodnick. “I joined a Facebook group where I was able to see over 100 thousand women sharing their stories verbatim very similar to mine.”

After having her implants for more than seven years, Francine says she was sure they were the cause of her symptoms; and was ready to get them out in order to feel better.

“I thought ‘why not?’ I have nothing to lose besides getting my health back,” said Slobodnick.

“We’re seeing women come here that for 15-20 years have been so sick and didn’t know why’” said Pryor Health Breast Implant Illness Advocate Laura Bowden. “I’m able to counsel a little bit and hopefully guide them in their journey to let them know that they’re not alone.”

Bowden’s also a Breast Implant Illness survivor who’s dedicated her life to raising awareness and getting more doctors to believe women who fall sick from their implants.

“There needs to be more studies done,” said Bowden. “So more doctors are behind this but when we have these women so very ill and they get their implants out and they get better, that’s cause and effect right there. We can’t make this up.

“Because it’s not a really well established diagnosis, there’s not a lot of physicians that are familiar with it and there’s not a lot of surgeons and plastic surgeons that treat those kinds of patients because there’s a lack of science to support it.” said Pryor Health Doctor Landon Pryor.

Pryor has seen hundreds of women fall ill from breast implant illness. His own BII Facebook support group has more than 400 members and counting..

“We continued to see more and more patients that were sick potentially related to implants,” said Dr. Pryor. “And after talking with patients about expectations for removing the implants and not obviously making any guarantees or promises, we saw that almost universally got better some of them with miraculous recoveries like Francine.”

Doctor Pryor removed Francine’s implants nearly 11 weeks ago. Something she says saved her life.

“When I first came here, I was hunched over,” said Slobodnick. “I had extreme chest pain. Now I’m actually able to carry on a conversation, feel happy. It’s a complete transformation.”

While BII isn’t a recognized illness, Doctor Pryor is working to collect research to better understand what establishes a diagnosis so more doctors will be able to treat women who fall sick.

“To have a doctor that believes and says you’re not crazy, that’s huge in the breast implant illness world,” said Bowden. “They can get their life back this is not your destiny for the rest of your life.”

“I’m trying to do what I think would be in our patient’s best interest,” said Doctor Pryor. “And if I see that doing this surgery is helping patients, then I’m going to continue to do it and hopefully we’ll get the science to support it. "

“From bikini modeling to now being a breast implant illness advocate and survivor, I would have never expected this,” said Slobodnick. “But I’m thankful I got a second chance and that Doctor Pryor and his staff believed in me enough to go through with the surgery.”

Doctor Pryor says breast implants are safe and many women who get them never suffer from any illness after getting them. Francine hopes to work with lawmakers to get legislation passed to provide informed consent to patients so they fully understand the potential risks.

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