Mississippi mom removes double-D breast implants, convinced they were toxic, making her ill and suicidal

Published 3:37 pm Monday, March 18, 2019

(SWNS) — A mother-of-three had her double-D breast implants removed when she became convinced they were poisoning her.

Erika Rae Ritschard, 28, had cosmetic surgery seven years ago but immediately began to suffer from anxiety and depression.

Her symptoms spread to include weight loss, heart palpitations, memory loss, extreme fatigue, skin rashes, anxiety, depression and even suicidal feelings.

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The photography editor believed she was suffering from ‘breast implant illness’ after stumbling upon a Facebook support group for the mystery condition.

Her symptoms were an exact match to those of thousands of other women in the group.

She eventually paid $5,000 to have the implants removed and her symptoms immediately began to disappear.

Although there is no official connection between breast implants and the condition many call ‘breast implant illness’, more than 50,000 women have joined online support groups reporting similar symptoms.

“It’s horrifying to think that what I had chosen to put into my body was making it wither away,” said Erika, of Long Beach, Mississippi.

“I wanted to cut them out of myself. During my worst times, I even contemplated suicide.”

Erika decided to get implants in March 2012 after breastfeeding left her unhappy with her appearance.

The mother of Jaylea, 11, Jonathan Jr, eight, and Eli, five, whose husband Jonathan, 30, is an electrician in the navy, said: “I had had pretty large breasts in high school.

“After breastfeeding two babies and losing some weight, I wasn’t really into the appearance of my breasts.

“My husband told me I looked perfect but I was really set on getting implants.

“I felt like I had given my body to my kids and this was something just for me.

“You had to be 22 to get silicone and I got them the day after my 22nd birthday.”

She paid $3,800 for the procedure and claimed that almost immediately she felt depressed and inexplicably anxious.

“Within three months, I was dealing with anxiety and depression,” she said.

She was put on anti-anxiety medication but other symptoms developed.

“All of a sudden my heart was racing for no reason.

“I got a kidney infection in the summer.

“After that, it was constant.

“I had recurring yeast infections and respiratory problems.

“I went to ER several times with migraines.”

In 2017, the symptoms became even more severe with Erika’s weight plummeting from a healthy 140lbs to a skeletal 100lbs.

She said: “I lost 40 pounds in a year.

“I was so fatigued in my body, I wasn’t able to concentrate, I thought I had ADHD and my mood swings were outrageous.

“My doctor sent me to a psychiatrist who said I had bipolar tendencies.

“I would have extreme lows and manic highs.

“I had brain fog and insomnia.

“My muscles were in so much pain that I lived on a heating pad for months.

“I would be extremely cold, sitting in my house in August with a coat, gloves and a beanie on.

“But then I’d have a hot flush and I would be dripping in sweat.

“I developed dry patches of skin on my legs that made me look like I had alligator or snake skin.

“There were stabbing pains in my chest and ringing in my ears.”

Erika even resorted to shaving her head in the summer of 2017 when her hair suddenly became extremely brittle.

She said: “My hair was completely fried.

“It was a mess, it was dry, it felt like hay.

“I thought it was from dying my hair but I had never had a problem with that before.”

She now believes it was yet another medical problem linked to her implants.

Erika estimated she went to the doctor at least 15 times but she was never given a diagnosis.

She said: “They were testing my blood count, my thyroid, I had tests for parasites, pelvis and stomach ultrasounds, MRIs and CAT scans.

“But they never found what was wrong with me.

“The doctors kept saying it was stress and healthy anxiety.

“I remember an ER doctor said to me: ‘You’re the healthiest sick person we’ve ever seen’.

“I felt like nobody believed me.

“Healthy people don’t drop 40lbs in a year and feel the way I felt.”

At her lowest point, Erika even considered suicide.

She said: “I contemplated killing myself on three different occasions in 2017.

“My husband had just had back surgery and he had a bunch of muscle relaxants.

“I Googled how many I would have to take to die.

“I thought I was never going to be fixed and nobody could understand what I was going through.”

In November 2017, by chance, Erika came across Facebook group Breast Implant Illness and Healing and felt like she finally had her diagnosis.

She said: “I became obsessed with getting new implants.

“I had had them almost six years and I wanted to get them done again.

“One day I was typing ‘breast implant’ into Facebook and breast implant illness came up.

“I was curious.

“The description in the group fitted with exactly what I was experiencing.

“I went to the website and the Instagram and I found everything I needed.

“I felt like I was reading about myself.

“I thought: ‘Holy crap, that’s why the doctor can’t find anything wrong with me!’

“I posted a bit of my story on the page and hundreds of women wrote to me and said it was definitely breast implant illness.”

Just three months later in February 2018 Erika had her breast implants removed at a surgery in Mobile, Alabama.

She said: “I immediately felt myself again but at first I was worried it was the pain medication I was on after the operation.

“But two weeks in, I knew this was a real heal.

“I was able to eat again.

“I was literally shoveling food into my mouth.

“For so long any food made me feel nauseous but now I was eating double cheeseburgers and fries.

“I put on forty pounds in four months.

“All my muscle pain was gone.

“I could sleep through the night.

“My skin was soft again, no more alligator patches.

“I literally had 20 years taken off my face after I explanted.

“The illness made me rapidly age – people thought I was in my forties when I wasn’t even 30.

“All of my symptoms subsided in the first two months.

“The only headache I get now is when I don’t drink my coffee in the morning.”

Dr. Diana Zuckerman, President of the National Center for Health Research in Washington D.C, said that just because breast implant illness is not recognized by the FDA does not mean that the condition is not real.

“When there’s a new pattern of a group of symptoms that seem to all cluster together for a group of people it often takes a long time until the medical community accepts that it is a real thing,” Dr Zuckerman commented.

“We certainly have seen and talked to many women who have experienced this cluster of symptoms that are referred to as breast implant illness.

“What they have in common is that they are symptoms that could be caused by their immune system going out of whack.

“Many of the symptoms that these women talk about – joint pain, mental confusion, hair falling out – are very typical of certain autoimmune diseases.

“It is possible that these conditions are caused by breast implants.”

She pointed out the link between breast implants and Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, a rare cancer of the immune system.

Dr Zuckerman added: “It makes sense that if breast implants can cause ALCL, they can cause other problems in the immune system.”