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THE STORY OF GRAZIA FROM BASILEA (SWITZERLAND)
Last year, after seeing several dermatologists, I decided to undergo an aesthetic treatment with botulin (Treated areas: the forehead and the area around the eyes). The dermatologist, that had to inject the botulin, ensured me several times its effectiveness and its harmlessness, underlining that I wouldn’t face any risks.
Furthermore, he added that it would have been extremely beneficial in my case because I’m affected by migraine and it seems to be proved that the botulin is used to relax the muscles and to relieve the pain caused by this disease.
I was sure of taking the right decision and I underwent the therapy with absolute serenity.
At that point, the dermatologist informed me that I wouldn’t been able to see the results straight away: it is necessary to wait couple of days before the wrinkles are totally smoothed.
Two days after the injection, I started suffering from a terrible headache, I can say it felt like “ something was burning in my head”, together with a feeling of nausea followed by vomit. I threw up for hours and without breaks, feeling weak and spaced out.
I have to say that in a first place I thought it could be my usual migraine, although I know exactly how a migraine works, since I have been suffering from it for 30 years.
Anyway, everything was fine again and I didn’t think about what happened anymore, even if it took me a while to recover.
Usually, It doesn’t take me long time and much effort to recover from migraine.
To be honest, the aesthetic result of the botulin was amazing. The only negative aspect is that I’m a very expressive woman and my face is like an “open book” and after the first treatment, I had the feeling to have been deprived of my personality, but a smoothen face has definitely its way on a partial loss of the facial expressions.
In this way, after six months, I underwent the same treatment and after couple of days, I had the same problems as the first time: bad migraine, vomit for about 11 hours. I had the feeling that my body had been poisoned that the pale color of my face wasn’t the one that someone gets with a simple migraine. At this point, I finally associated the pain with the treatment and informed the dermatologist, that didn’t take into account whatsoever these contraindications, underlining that it might have been just a bad case of migraine and that I should have undergone the treatment again, this time focusing only on the forehead and the area around the eyes.
Being a bit sceptic, two months ago, I tried again the treatment. This time, we treated only the upper area of the forehead to see if the reaction would have been different from the first two times. Unfortunately, the reaction was the same and until today the dermatologist can’t explain this case, defying it as an “exception” amongst his several patients.
THE STORY OF CARLA VALSECCHI (NOVARA)
I wanted to try botulin because I thought I would acquire a more youthful look without having to resort to plastic surgery. The sight of the two glabellar frown lines (the vertical ones between the eyebrows) always bothered me. So I went to see a dermatologist in Novara to ask what I could do.
She recommended botulin and made me sign a paper that absolved her of any responsibility should contraindications occur. While she made me sign the document, she reassured me by saying that even her employee had had the treatment and that there had never been any problem. “The signature is merely a formality,” she said. So she gave me the two injections. I paid 200 euros.
Two days later at about 10 in the evening my sight clouded over. I saw lights with halos around them and everything was blurred. I was very frightened. So the next day
(16th June 2008) I went to Accident and Emergency, thoroughly embarrassed about having had those injections for the sake of my appearance. The doctor confirmed that my condition was the effect of the botulin that had spread from where it had been injected.
The medical report stated “Recent inoculation with botulin at the top of the nose.
Clouding of eyesight. Diagnosis: superficial punctate keratitis.” In short, the cornea was enflamed and the toxin had migrated to other areas.
For about a month I had “tired eyes”. I felt the effect of the botulin even in my nose and muscular exhaustion affected my whole body, but I was unable to prove this with medical tests. The dermatologist was worried and called me often that month.
I have incurred a lot of expenses as a result of those two injections, what with all the eye drops, creams, gels and visits to the doctor. All in the aid of recovering my sight.
I thought that the botulin would make me younger. But instead it disfigured and frightened me and cost me all that time and money spent on post-injection cures. I would never do it again.
THE STORY OF NICOLETTA SELVAROLO
I am a criminal lawyer for the law court of Trani and I practise my profession with honesty and scrupulousness. I think I should make this point not to show off my credentials but to support the credibility of the terrible story I am about to tell.
Unfortunately it all started with my desire to eliminate a glabellar frown line. Towards the end of March 2006 I decided to have an inoculation of botulin at the clinic of a medical practitioner, specialist in reconstructive and aesthetic plastic surgery in Bari. I trusted this doctor. She had often urged me to have this treatment, assuring me that it was only a matter of a few little injections and would give me a serene, relaxed expression.
So after outlining a sort of map on my face with a dark pen, she gave me a series of injections on my forehead and eyebrows. I should point out that she described the operation as “a mere trifle”. Not only did she not inform me about the real risks associated with botulin injections, but she did not get me to sign any kind of document of consent. She told me that if I were to feel any discomfort, it would be due to the injections and would go away within a few days.
That was when my Calvary began.
The next day I had a problem of dryness in my eyes, I felt a tightening of the ocular nerves, I began to have double vision and to get terrible headaches. Believing the problem to be temporary, as the doctor had told me, I expected that the pain to subside in the next few days. But the headaches increased until they became unbearable and in a great escalation of pain I had inexplicable physical reactions – difficulty swallowing, drooping eyelids, physical fatigue, pains in my joints, a sense of befuddlement and serious difficulty in breathing. It was as though the pains had paralyzed me. I had no idea what was happening to my body.
So after about three weeks, while in the grip of a severe breathing crisis, I went to the A & E of the … Policinico. They arranged for me to go into the neurology clinic with a priority code as an in-patient with suspected botulin syndrome caused by medical treatment.
I stayed in hospital for six days and after consulting The Poison Centre in Milan, the doctors in the department told me that unfortunately they couldn’t give me an antidote as too much time had passed since the inoculation. I discharged myself against the advice of the doctors. The clinical report they issued gave a discharge diagnosis of botulism with paralysis of the neuromuscular zone of the forehead.
As a result I succumbed to a state of depression that I am still trying to overcome. Meanwhile I have suffered from bilateral detachment of the vitreous humour and a series of problems with my eyesight.
In November 2006 I sued the doctor for damages on the grounds that she had subjected me to the botulin inoculation with such superficiality and negligence
The whole judicial process is turning out to be an umpteenth Calvary. With reference to the case of … according to the CTU (technical consultant to the court), some of the symptoms I showed could be attributed to self-suggestion on my part. Apart from my consultant, Dr. G.N. of…Neurologist and Legal Medical Practitioner, who knows the collateral effects of the injected botulin, the consultants for the defence, also from … and the CTU itself seriously undervalue the danger of inoculation of the toxin on the grounds that the reactions I complained of for several months are not mentioned in the Vistabex patient information slip.
Even today I don’t know what type and brand of botulin I was injected with, as I did not sign any kind of document of consent.
It’s like living through something out of Kafka.
I am making my testimony, which I have already made public in an interview I gave to Espresso magazine published on 18.10.2007 issue no. 41. I was also interviewed on television in a programme for Channel 5.
I am making available all the clinical and legal documents connected to my case.
Avv. Nicoletta Selvarolo.
THE STORY OF PAOLA T. (ROMA)
On 29th December 2010 I underwent botulin treatment administered by a professional plastic surgeon. I was injected with a vial of 25 units on the upper forehead. I didn’t have any collateral effects immediately. However on 11th January I went back for a touch-up in the glabellar area above the eyebrows –
That was when the nightmare began
The first effect was an immediate swelling of the right eye along with difficulty with my sight – double vision and astigmatism. (I had never suffered from astigmatism before but it was diagnosed by an oculist shortly afterwards.) The reaction was not just limited to one eye but an oedema appeared in the area of treatment. My skin was peeling and I had a terrible itching, which led to the formation of scabs. Also I felt as though my eyes were being “stretched tight”.
As a further aggravation to my eyesight, I developed photophobia – aversion to light. It was impossible to look at any source of light. I felt as though I were staring at the sun at midday, just when it hurts most to look at it. And as if that were not enough, I had a sensation of paralysis and drowsiness that spread up from the area around the eyes to affect half my head extending to behind my ears.
I remember waking up one night to find the whole of the right side of my body had gone to sleep from head to toe. I started to walk round the room and move any way I could. It was as if I no longer had any circulation. My leg and my arm were rigid and I had an overwhelming feeling of fainting. At this point I went to the Anti-Poison Centre for help.
Four months later, even though these reactions have been reduced to some extent, they continue to come back. Now it’s as if the effects have shifted to the left side of the body. It’s the left eyeball that swells up and I still keep getting severe numbness in the area that was treated, as though it was constantly asleep. Also the right side of my face is smaller and seems stretched taut. I have even had to go to a Neurologist, who prescribed neuronal activators.
THE STORY OF MARTA F. (MODENA)
I went to someone supposed to be qualified to eliminate a furrow line in the area above the nose. I wasn’t told “I’ll inject you with botulin”, but simply “I’ll get rid of the furrow line for you”. But the injection was right at the edge of the eyes and it was at that very moment that I realised something was wrong. Remembering a film I’d seen on television, I asked if it was botulin. The answer was “Yes, it’s botulin”.
After the treatment I was worried by the fact that I was told not to practice any sport for two days. I didn’t understand why. The answer I got was that sweating could create problems and lead to spread of the injected substance. In the days following the treatment I noticed something that that had never happened to me before. Whenever I stumbled or made a sudden or startled movement, I felt sharp stabs of pain in the area that had been treated … something like electric shocks. I’d never had that sensation before. Ever since then I’ve been having the same pain every time I make a sudden movement.
THE STORY OF SUSI C. (MILANO)
I’ve always suffered from hyperhidrosis – excessive sweating, so spring and summer are a nightmare. From primary school to university I’ve taken exams with little towels wrapped around my pen so as not to wet the paper. I’ve never worn open shoes; I live with absorbent socks like Linus with his blanket. I have an important job involving maintaining relations.
Before I shake hands with anyone, I dry my own hand with a handkerchief (but my hands still feel cold and damp). I don’t make use of my hands unless I have to as they are swollen and tend to hurt. I really can’t stand hot weather.
There are worse things in life than my condition of course, but we poor sufferers of hyperhidrosis deserve some sympathy.
I’ve tried so many “impossible” cures, even the tour of the seven churches laying my hands on the altars. (I’m sure it would have worked for other people, but not for me, as I’ve always been an atheist.)
When I am over 40, I hear about botulin therapy and I begin to have hope. It is a terrible blow to find out after the second cycle of treatment that, according to the hospital specialist centre, I am “the only case in the world” to have side effects from botulin therapy. In fact it is only after the second cycle that they acknowledge my intolerance of the toxin. They are amazed and promise to research my case. Needless to say, no research was carried out.
It’s only after the second cycle that they give up telling me I’m suffering from anxiety and stress and that the terrible symptoms I’ve had are due to my psychological malaise. Only then do they confirm that all the symptoms I complained about in the first cycle are due to what I had illuded myself could be the panacea for my miserable life for six months of the year. Only after the second cycle do I get to grips with reality and realise (just a feeling, of course, but I’m convinced of it) that if my doctor doesn’t want me to go to the hospital in my own city on any account, wants to deal with me himself on the telephone and is obviously apprehensive, it must be because he doesn’t want other doctors sticking their noses into the problem.
Well, I fall ill for the second time. I lose another month of work and feel that my life is at risk when the sense of paralysis I have in my arms spreads upwards beyond my elbows and could reach my heart. (If this happens I will have to telephone the doctor and get myself to the city where his medical centre is. Yes, that’s what he said, really!) But I am the freak. I feel unfortunate in everything and accept my fate. The problems with my eyesight, the vertigo, the drowsiness, the dilated pupils and the feeling of paralysis are all part of my condition as an extraordinary case.
For years I remain convinced of this, and with a view to stop the excess sweating, I offer myself as a guinea pig and undergo a third cycle on condition that I am treated as an in-patient. To no avail. I began to sweat again, my thumbs did not recover their former strength (not Herculean but normal) and I find out from the press that I am by no means a freak case. So was it a case of a trouble shared is a trouble halved? No way! I just feel tricked and humiliated, victim of a fraud covering a huge and lucrative business.
Today I want to make public what happened, and let me say this too, there is nothing I would like better than to sue the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the product and all those who go along with the game. I am not a unique case in the world. As with other pharmaceutical products, the truth should be made clear and accessible to patients who undergo a therapy. I was delighted when I saw that the patient information sheet of flu vaccines admit the risk of Guillain Barré Syndrome, a tragically devastating illness that sadly afflicted my mother. That risk had been denied and hidden for decades with hundreds of thousands of victims; yes they were VICTIMS of the negligence of others.
But we are all victims at some time or other when negligence and bad faith are involved.
I have been unable to look after my small daughter or my family. I have been unable to work for two months (in two different years). I have risked my life and been disregarded and deceived. Now I’m very angry. I am in possession of some of the email correspondence that I kept before I suspected anything, a fact that makes my testimony reliable.
THE STORY OF SIMONA T. (MILANO)
My name is Simona. I work in public relations in the fashion sector and I’ve seen a lot in my time… I got to the age of 37 without ever coming across botulin. The experiment with botox – forget it! And let me tell you why.
Let’s start with what happened after the treatment. I begin to feel tired and drowsy straight away. Then comes the headache, a severe migraine that lasts for some days. It feels like I’ve been poisoned. It’s as though my body is fighting an enemy, a poison that it tries to resist – fortunately. So it makes me angry because I was perfectly well before the treatment. The adverse reaction cannot be due to anything else happening to me at the same time, as I take great care of my body. I’m (almost) fanatical about health. I don’t drink or take anything in excess, so there’s no explanation for the effect. I feel as though I have a fever at the worst point of a bad attack of flu, or as if I’ve just had a surgical operation. I constantly feel the need to drink water or eat fruit, simply to try to detoxicate the organism. And as for my face – my eyes and forehead are practically paralyzed.
Fortunately today I can say that the effect as such lasted “only” a month and diminished gradually in the months that followed. I suffered considerably from the problem, as body language is extremely important in my line of work. In fact everyone noticed that something had changed. I would smile with only half of my face – my mouth, because my eyes were practically paralyzed.
Why on earth did you think of doing it, you may ask. I was about to get married and with the photographs in mind I thought I would look better on the wedding day. But instead… I had the treatment at the end of June and after a week I felt a terrible discomfort in my eyes. As I couldn’t knit my eyebrows, the ray of light that came through the top of my sunglasses bothered me quite a bit, especially as I have light coloured eyes, which are fairly sensitive to light anyway. Well of course, there’s nothing you can’t get over. The worst part of it was my general state, worried as I was about feeling poisoned and knowing that I had done something harmful to my own body. I wanted to do something about the (glabellar) lines of expression between the eyebrows but the doctor also wanted to correct my “crow’s feet”. Something that I learned later is forbidden as it on the list of off label uses.
I had known the doctor for some time. He had reassured me by telling me it was something he had done for years without problems. So we made an appointment for three in the afternoon.
He arrives with his doctor’s bag, vintage 1920s style and starts to inject me with the poison.
He makes light of the collateral effects despite my pressing questions. Don’t misunderstand me. I am quite careful about this kind of thing and before I undergo any treatment I usually get several different doctors’ opinions. In this case I had faith in the doctor.
But do you want to know the latest? Just this morning I go to a specialist about a problem with capillary veins. And with the irony of fate, guess what he said?
“Why don’t you have botulin treatment on your forehead?”
“I’ve heard this before,” I reply tersely. The doctor hesitates, then closes in. “It’s a safe molecule that has been used in medicine for the last 50 years for various pathologies.”
Then in a clumsy last attempt to convince me he tries with a “pearl” of wisdom.
“I’ve tried it out personally and I’ve even used it on my own daughter!”
“I see”, I answer serenely. “No one is perfect.”