Jun 10, 2017

Want to Join a Class Action Lawsuit about Faulty IVC Filters? Kirkendall Dwyer is Handling Them.

In America, litigation rules. Some people sue frivolously, like a woman who was burnt by McDonald's coffee that was too darn hot (she won) or a man who sued a beach-front hotel after he was knocked over by a wave (he lost). But the majority of the lawsuits are worthwhile and about personal injury. Take my IVC (inferior vena cava) filter which came from my DVT (deep vein thombosis), for example. But first, a little background.

Two weeks before I had my stroke on that fateful day, April 8, 2009, I called my friend, an orthopedic surgeon, to ask about my foot and leg pain.

"If your pain continues, and it goes up to your knee, and even higher, go to the Emergency Room," he said.

The pain was going strong, and before it got up to my knee, I went to the ER. The ER doctor did some blood tests and an ultrasound, and he came back with the results.

"You have blood clots in both legs. I'm going to have to admit you." I was in New Jersey at that time.

All right, I said to my inner psyche, don't panic. The blood clots don't mean a thing. I took the day off from work. [I found out for sure 3 years later that Avelox, an antibiotic known as the family of  fluoroquinolones, could produce blood clots]. I was in the hospital for a few days and went back to the law firm, Cozen O'Connor in Philadelphia, where I was a Sr. Technical Trainer. The following week, I went to a hematologist in Philadelphia and he discovered my platelets were practically non-existent. But the trouble was nobody connected the dots. The doctors operated in a void.

When I had the stroke, though I was unconscious, it was told to me later by my son that I had blood clots in every extremity (arms and legs). So the doctor at Capital Health located in Trenton, NJ, put a Greenfield filter in my groin [there are many kinds of filters that all do the same thing] to catch the clots from going up to my lungs, heart, and brain. Resembling a windblown, useless umbrella, this is what it looks like. (Greenfield filters were recalled in 2005. A Greenfield filter was implanted in me in 2009. Was the defect solved? I don't know, and that right there is an issue, too).

I was unconscious for 8 days, and when I awoke, my sons, the youngest playing the guitar at my bedside, and my partner (whom I left after 17 years, but that is another story for another time) were waiting. It's all in the book. (The Tales of a Stroke Patient by yours truly, available at Amazon -- https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Stroke-Patient-Joyce-Hoffman/dp/1479712493/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475474432&sr=8-1&keywords=the+tales+of+a+stroke+patient)

Anyway, now 8 years later, I joined a class action lawsuit a few years ago sponsored by Kirkendall Dwyer. The reason I joined the suit was I read a lot of cases where the filters moved and it got me antsy. I received a letter from Kirkendall Dwyer in November 2016 and here is what it said:


Dear Ms. Hoffman,

As you recall, Kirkendall Dwyer LLP represents you in a lawsuit related to your IVC Filter device. I am writing to inform you that we received the medical records in your case. They show that on 04/08/2009, you were implanted with the VENA TECH manufactured by BBRAUN. We are pursuing a claim related to that product.

It is very important that we have a current treatment history. Please let us know if a have had any of the following Injuries after the IVC Filter placement. [I had a pulmonary embolism, #4 on Rafael's list, a couple of years ago]

     1) Perforation of the inferior vena cava or any other organ
     2) Migration of the IVC Filter Implant
     3) Fractured, broken or shattered IVC Filter
     4) Embolization (Blood Clots)
     5) Ischemic Stroke (Stroke caused by a blood clot to the brain)
     6) Tilting or slanting of the IVC Filter
     7) Heart or Lung Injury caused by the IVC Filter

If you continue to have problems associated with the IVC Filter, then please schedule an appointment as soon as possible to have your problems evaluated. During your appointment, please be thorough in explaining your complications.

If you have any questions, then please do not hesitate to call the office.

Kind regards,

Rafael Pena Costa Jr.
IVC Filter Case Manager
(214)271-4027, Ext 7048



Since I couldn't travel to Kirkendall Dwyer which is in Houston and Dallas, TX, Rafael kept in touch with me by phone. Then last Friday, I received a letter that was a report from the radiologist who was hired by the lawyer as an expert that said there was a perforation in my inferior vena cava [#1 on Rafael's list]. So I stopped doing the stationary bike until I saw a vascular surgeon who specializes, in part, in the treatment of disorders of the vascular systems, that is the body's arteries and veins.

I saw the surgeon three days later and I showed him the letter from Rafael and the report from the attorney's expert radiologist that said, in essence, my vein had been perforated by the filter and that warned the surgeon that an operation to remove the filter was needless.

"Forget that you have it," said the surgeon. "The filter is supposed to be permanent and there is no way to remove it because the filter and your vein are one." Then he pointed to the letter and showed me where the radiologist referred to my filter and my vein as occluded (dictionary definition says "taken into and retained in another substance." That's where filter and vein are one come into play.

"You may die on the operating table. Besides, 89% of the people have perforated veins from the filters." His eyes kept darting back to the lawyer's letter.

I believe the lawyer's letter and the radiologist's report are what colored the surgeon's thinking. Doctors hate lawyers' letters.

A few medical professionals in Pittsburgh know about the lawsuit. Word travels fast in the Steel City. But I'm going out to Portland, OR, next month to live near one of my sons. I'll see a doctor in Portland, or Puddleton as it's sometimes called [all that rain--get it?], without mentioning the lawyer. That way, I'll get a straight answer. Word of mouth will probably die when it crosses the Rockies.

So call Kirkendall Dwyer if you have experienced any of the items on Rafael's list. What do you have to lose? I'll answer that. Nothing!

(RETRACTION: The attorney's aide of Kirkendall Dwyer called me last night to tell me he appreciated the post, but the filter was a BBraun, not a Greenfield. He said they don't handle Greenfield filter cases because they don't cause that many problems. However, the BBraun is right up there causing problems as stated in Rafael's list above. Even though the filters do the same thing--catch blood clots, my error came about because that filter information is the only thing I was told from the start of the stroke. So Greenfield filter, thumbs up; BBraun filter, thumbs down).

May 29, 2017

A Review of Stroke Books, and The 3 Things I Didn't Have When I Had My Stroke

I finished all three and very different books about strokes as promised: a brain stem stroke, an ischemic stroke, and a hemorrhagic stroke. Here are my reviews, with a few thoughts at the end on what I was missing when I had my stroke.

1. The Calm Before the Storm: A Stroke Survivor's Story by Delanie Stephenson

Delanie's major concern when she had a brain stem stroke at 33 in Virginia was, who would take care of her two young kids before unconsciousness set in with her words, Then everything went dark. Her sister had a stroke, too, a hemorrhagic one, so the strokes were probably hereditary rather than coincidence. She uses religious undertones all through the book in prayers to God, invoking Him for help with the loss of her ability to walk and speak. Delanie has humor in the book as well as she described her embarrassing moments in graphic detail. There was much support, including her mom, her sister-in-law, friends and, of course, Curtis, her husband. She was in rehab for months and the doctors called her "a miracle." She suffers with PBA (pseudobulbar affect when one cries and laughs at inappropriate times) and has been working with a neurologist as of 2013, and her strength and balance are returning. As the book ends, she offers these words: But with God's help, the love of my family and friends, and lots of hard work, this storm too shall pass. Yes, it will, Delainie.

I give this book *****. 

You can find Delanie's book at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Calm-before-Storm-Stroke-Survivors-ebook/dp/B00DRDO9WW/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1495995331&sr=8-14&keywords=the+calm+before+the+storm

2. Stroke After Stroke: A Rower's Pilgrimage by Barbara Polan

Barbara thought she was too young to have an ischemic stroke at 52 (she was correct) when she in great physical shape and had a profession--managing editor of a newspaper--she loved. She expected tomorrow to be like today. She masterfully weaves rowing on a gig boat in Gloucester Harbor all through her book about the stroke. Her goal is to be able to row again. She suffered at the time the book was published in 2014 from anosognosia, as defined by a neurologist as "not understanding the extent or significance of one's deficits," i.e. she didn't know her limitations caused by the stroke. Barbara lost the use of the non-dominant side (left side), but she was fortunate in that respect (she is right-handed). Barbara focuses on exercise repetition, and she has tried, among other things, the Eastern practices of Kundalini Yoga, chanting Buddhist 'nam-myo-ho-renge-kyo' for15-minute daily sessions, acupuncture in the ear, psychotherapy, and aquatic therapy. She said she is happy and well-adjusted, although not complacent or accepting of my limitations.

I give this book *****.

3. Love Stroke: Stroke Recovery and One Young Couple's Journey by Kelly and Brad Marsh

The book is actually written by both Kelly and Brad, which I find a fascinating thing in and of itself from a young couple. Kelly, 36, was ill in Cincinnati after she returned from a trip to New Orleans. The both went to the hospital and she was put in the ICU, and when he wanted information about Kelly, a nurse told him, Nothing good happens fast in the ICU. Soon, a doctor confirmed ongoing bleeding in the brain which needed surgery. Her mother was there to help, but Brad, her life-saving point person, kept precise records of her medications, insurance (if filled out incorrectly, it would delay her rehab), doctors, and even the nurses and aides on duty. The book is a moving account of what people can do to help themselves, even after a hemorrhagic stroke, with helpful tips following the chapters. By working hard, she and Brad now have gone on vacations, something Kelly did not think possible early on. Some of the proceeds from the book are going toward the foundation the two of them started--A Stroke Forward, giving young and old stroke survivors, other traumatic brain injury survivors, and their caregivers the resources for their recovery.

I give this book *****.

Now, the 3 things I didn't have when I had my stroke:
1. I wasn't married (although my partner of 17 years considered us a married-ish couple) so I didn't have support that was even remotely close to what Delanie, Barbara, and Kelly had with Curtis, Tom, and Brad.

2. They had friends. Most of my friends left me once they saw what they thought would become of me. But I fooled them. I am now walking, albeit with an AFO (ankle-foot orthotic) and a cane, and I am no longer depressed, moody, and weeping. Sure, I get frustrated some times, but doesn't everybody to some extent?

3. They all had family members to help. My two sons lived far away and they visited me as often as their careers would allow. My parents are dead. That is why I'm moving to Portland soon to be near one of my sons as soon as this "medical condition" is cleared up. The foreboding doctor's call came on Friday and that "medical condition" is the subject of my next post. Stay tuned!

Apr 22, 2017

This Is a Life Lesson: Cankerish Braces Just a Parable

This post is divided in 3 parts. If I had to judge, the 3rd part is the most important. A little background first.

Part 1:

When I had my stroke at 4am on April 8, 2009, the paramedics came and I was soon intubated, I found out a few months later. Intubation is a procedure where an endotracheal tube offers an open passage through the upper airway to allow air to pass freely to and from the lungs in order to ventilate the lungs. It helps to be in a coma-like state to not feel the pain.

Endotracheal tubes can be connected to ventilator machines and is often used when patients are critically ill and unconscious, and cannot maintain enough respiratory function to keep breathing on their own.

During endotracheal tube placement, however, one of the dangers is damage to the teeth. So one of my teeth, the upper right canine, was missing, as in knocked out. Also, I had orthodontia before many years ago and the original orthodontist placed a wire behind my bottom teeth so they wouldn't move, and the wire became dislodged in placing the endotracheal tube. I had the upper right canine replaced with a cap, but the lower right first molar eventually came forward in time and my bite was affected.

I studied the tooth, coming forward each year, until I couldn't stand it any longer. That was the only thing I could see in the mirror--that medial drift of the molar which made room for the rest of the teeth, but the hapless lower left first molar was the victim.

The new orthodontist applied the braces and said, "Remember. Nothing hard or crunchy or sticky while you have the braces on." I sat there and started thinking about Vitamin K.

Part 2:

I have to take the same amount of Vitamin K in order to keep my INR (International Normalized Ratio) stable. Vitamin K is responsible for a healthy heart, improvement in bone density, reduced infections, and strong teeth. The INR determines ability to clot and, according to WebMD, "People taking the blood thinner warfarin typically have a target INR of 2.0 to 3.0." Below 2.0, you're aiming to clot; above 3.0, you might bleed. Trust me. I was there, and you don't want either.

I found inrtracker.com and then simply clicked on Vitamin K database to see which foods were allowed, not more than 90 micrograms a day for people 19 and older. This was my regimen, i.e. the same foods I ate every day. I absolutely love cucumbers with the skin still on them (4 thick slices = 30mcg), stalks of celery (1 large = 30mcg),  and blueberries (1 cup = 30mcg).

But I can't eat them now, the cucumber and the celery because they were hard, and especially blueberries getting stuck in the braces because of the outer skin. I felt so defeated that my regimen couldn't exist for a while.

But then, a week later, I researched and while I have the braces, I eat chopped cabbage for cole slaw that's made soft in the mayonnaise dressing (1 cup = 32mcg), ripe "just-melt-in-your-mouth" avocado (just short of 1 cup = 28mcg), and 1 large, soon-to-rotten kiwi (1 = 30mcg), every day. The regimen must continue, for the canker-producing braces, for the must-have Vitamin K, for my anxious sanity.

Part 3:

Until the braces come off in 5 months, I'll go with that regimen every day. Good Lord! It's only 5 months! I'll keep my INR between 2.0 and 3.0, and then I'll go back to the cucumbers, celery, and blueberries once the braces come off.

You see, it isn't the braces alone that's the reason for my telling you the story. It's a parable, an allegory, that applies to everything in life you consider arduous and burdensome. For me, it was assigning other "edible-because-of my braces" foods to my Vitamin K diet. For others, it might be a word you couldn't utter, and now you can speak that word without feeling embarrassed, or a walk around the block that you deemed impossible, and now you can do it twice, or a 12-minute ride on the stationery bike that you thought was the most you could do, and now you can do 55 minutes.

Bottom line? You can do more things faster or effortlessly or efficiently than you're doing presently. Guaranteed. I know because I was there.

Apr 8, 2017

Botox and Stroke Survivors: Does It Really Work?

First off, I have to tell you a story about Botox.

A year after I had my stroke in 2009, I went back to the acute care hospital--Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation in Pomona, New Jersey--to see a doctor who specialized in spasticity of the limbs or, in my case, my leg. I wrote the book, "The Tales of a Stroke Patient," in part about Bacharach and called Bacharach Rehab X (now that I don't need them anymore, I'll reveal the source), and the insensitivity at times of the health professionals there--doctors, nurses, CNAs. I shouldn't have gone back. But the spasticity was driving me crazy.

If you think about it, you might not get the injection. The word Botox is a combination of botulism and toxin (OnabotulinumtoxinA the active ingredient contained in Botox). Botox comes from a bacteria that is a type of botulism, a type of food poisoning which, if you inadvertently use spoiled beef, can cause you to become very ill if ingested.

Anyway, I heard about Botox (the famous drug used to tackle wrinkles and lines for the insecure Hollywood folks) to also reduce spasticity and I made an appointment with Dr. X who specialized in Botox injections.

I went into the procedure room and the doctor followed. After we greeted each other, I asked him about the side effects.

I thought, C-mon. Botox wasn't to make me look younger. I HAVE A LEG SPASM, FOR CHRIST-SAKE! THEY'RE FUCKING PAINFUL AND ANNOYING! 

The doc said, without missing a beat, "You may die."

I paused and then shrieked, almost simultaneously, "Not today!" and quickly hopped off the table and ran (for a stroke survivor, "ran" is an exaggeration) out of the room, leaving the doc with his needle, the longest needle I've ever seen in my life, already about to inject the "death" serum into moi.

As it turns out, after much recent research, "death" isn't listed on the drug's bottle. Back pain, body aches, difficulty breathing, trouble swallowing, coughing, headache, and fever are among the possible side effects. And death? Never. 

But it should be. The doctor was right. I could die from Botox if it wasn't injected directly in the muscle and went to other parts of my body. Remember? A toxin? But he mocked and scared me, taking advantage of my nervousness.

Public Citizen's (PC) Dr. Sidney Wolfe demanded that the FDA  order a "black-box warning," to require that every patient receive a pamphlet outlining the risk prior to the Botox injection.

"What we're saying is, nobody should be dying of Botox, and they wouldn't be dying if the government and the companies were doing a better job warning people," Wolfe said. (The good doc's message came true. The warning is now on the bottle though PC discovered 16 deaths specifically related to Botox ten years ago. There are most likely more now). 

So insecure people wanting to look younger and more vibrant aside, exactly how does Botox work with brain-injured people? 

A spinal cord injury site said, "A small dose of Botox injected directly into the spastic muscle(s) blocks the acetylcholine so that the muscle can loosen and relax, resulting in increased flexibility and mobility and reduced pain." 

Relief comes to many within three to seven days following an injection, typically lasting three to six months, so injections that are repeated is normally needed. And check to see if the Botox (I mean, ask the doctor to show you) is manufactured by Allergan and not some counterfeit drug company.

Botox is not a cure, and your symptoms will slowly return as the effects of the medication subside.

A recent study at Indiana University found the benefits of Botox in reducing spasticity in the arms and fingers were roughly twice as effective as those who didn't get Botox at all.

Published in The New England Journal of Medicine, half of stroke patients, 126 in number, received injections of 240 units of Botox and half received placebos. The conclusive evidence said the 62% of those who were given Botox injections found relief in their spasticity, while only 27% of the patients taking the placebo reported improvement. Then again, there's mind over matter often taking effect.

The reason that I am thinking about Botox at all is that on this day, 8 years ago, I had my stroke. And I still have spasms, less often, but when I get them, they are mind-altering. 

I'll call for an appointment on Monday, or the week after that, or perhaps never. That sounds about right--never.