Woman cuts self to force removal of breast implant


AUSTIN, Texas -- Marlene Hooker was so distraught over her silicone gel breast implants that she slashed her own breast open to force surgeons to remove them.

"I thought if I started it," she said, "someone would finish it."

She got her wish Wednesday, about 24 hours after she cut open her left breast. Dr. Richard Parker, an Austin plastic surgeon, removed her implants in a two-hour operation at Seton Medical Center.

"I'm so relieved it's unreal," she said afterward from her hospital room, where officials said she was in stable condition. "I feel like a burden has been lifted."

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration restricted use of the implants because of health and safety concerns.

Ms. Hooker, 46, became the second known woman in the United States to cut herself in an effort to remove the controversial implants. In both cases, the women said their insurance companies had refused to pay for removal of the implants.

Ms. Hooker, who had been ill since 1989 with joint pain, fatigue, chest pain and shortness of breath, said she was told by her doctor that her muscles and nerves were deteriorating because of her implants.

She went to Brackenridge Hospital Tuesday after awakening with a swollen face and a rash.

When nurses in the emergency room at Brackenridge told her the implants could not be removed there, Ms. Hooker said she took a scalpel off a table, went to a bathroom and lacerated her left breast.

"I had to do it several times," she recalled. "I didn't realize I was so tough."

She said officials at Brackenridge refused to admit her for surgery, despite her wound. So she and her mother went to Seton, where she was admitted.

Larry BeSaw, Brackenridge spokesman, said that Ms. Hooker was not refused treatment.

Dr. Duke Kimbrough, an emergency room physician, said Ms. Hooker left while he was on the phone consulting a plastic surgeon about what she had done.

Gay Owen, who helped organize the Austin Silicone Implant Support Team, said she was shocked by Ms. Hooker's action but not surprised.

"These people are scared," Ms. Owen said. "Obviously they're scared or they wouldn't slash themselves open."

Like Ms. Owen and some other Austin-area women, Ms. Hooker was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that a Houston specialist said apparently was caused by her silicone gel implants, said Marian Rosen, Ms. Hooker's Houston attorney.

"Her situation had become so desperate, and she could not get any relief, that she had to take things into her own hands," said Ms. Rosen.

Ms. Rosen said Ms. Hooker's insurance company agreed to pay for the implant removal Wednesday morning after learning what Ms. Hooker had done, Ms. Rosen said.

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