Devoted mother-of-four dies from heart failure after implants trigger dormant TB
'Mum wanted other women to know that breast enlargements aren't worth it'Doctors believe breast implants may have triggered dormant TBTwo of Kerry's implants exploded and she also battled through MRSA and a double mastectomyKerry died of internal bleeding after an artery in her heart collapsed from stress
13:56 GMT, 6 July 2012
For most of her life Kerry Elia was self-conscious about her body; she hated her flat 34A chest and longed to be curvy and shapely like other women she knew.
So, after years of saving to pay for the cosmetic surgery she was desperate for, the mother-f-four was delighted with the results of the procedure that left her with the body she'd longed for.
For the first time ever she had boobs she loved and she finally felt like the woman she’d always wanted to be.
But her joy soon turned to despair as the breast implants she had paid 3,750 for began slowly killing her.
Kerry at home over Christmas in 2009. It was one of the last pictures taken of her before she died. Her heart failed following TB treatment
Kerry before and after her operation: She was delighted with her larger breasts but came to regret having the surgery
Now, the four children she left
behind – Shannon, 21, Joe, 19, Lloyd, 15, and six-year-old Madison –
wish she had never gone for surgery.
said: 'Mum was happiest after she had her boob job. She loved feeling
womanly and curvy and it made her really confident. But before long she
fell ill and never recovered.
'Mum suffered for years after having the operation and she regretted having it done.
'She even had a mastectomy but it was too late by then. She wanted other women to know it wasn’t worth it.'
Shannon was eight when Kerry, from Eltham, South East London, had saved enough for a breast enlargement.
Kerry’s mother Linda, 61, remembers the day in 1999 her daughter called to tell her she was going ahead with the operation.
heart sank,' recalls Linda. 'But I knew it was something she had wanted
since she was a teenager and she’d been saving for years.'
Kerry’s operation in London transformed her into a curvy 34C and she was delighted with the results. Linda remembers her being so happy she cried.
'She said she felt like a real woman at last and her confidence blossomed. She had a photo shoot done and it was the first time she had ever liked a picture of herself,' she added.
Kerry Elia (left) when she was in hospital just before she died. Right – with her daughter Shannon when she was little
Kerry with her daughter Shannon who said that in the end her mother knew her breast implants hadn't been worth it
Two years after the operation, Kerry
met her husband-to-be, security guard Darren. But 18 months later, she
developed a cough and a chest X-ray revealed she had tuberculosis, a
serious lung infection.
Doctors were not sure how she’d
caught it, but one theory was the disease had laid dormant in her body
until the implants were inserted.
explains: 'We were all worried, but Kerry told us not to be. She took
it in her stride and said the medication would clear it up. None of us
thought for a minute it would end up killing her.'
The cough did clear up and Kerry and Darren started planning their wedding with Shannon due to be a bridesmaid. But one morning, Kerry called Linda distraught saying that her implant had just exploded.
was on her way to work when she felt a pop in her chest and then blood
and fluid had started seeping out of an open wound on her breast.
'I told her to drive straight to hospital.'
Missing mum: Shannon today with her grandmother Linda (right). They said Kerry's breasts robbed her of so much. Left – a poem Shannon read at her mother's funeral
AN AIRBORNE THREAT
Tuberculosis is primarily a disease of the lungs that can spread to other organs and can be fatal if left untreated.
About 90 per cent of people who get infected with TB develop a latent TB infection, which means the infecting bacteria are alive in the body, but inactive. People who have latent infections do not have TB symptoms and cannot spread the infection to others.
However, about five per cent of latent TB become active TB in the first year, and about five to 15 per cent after that.
TB becomes latent when an infected person’s immune system isn't strong enough to keep the infectious bacteria in check. It breaks out of walled off lesions known as 'tubercles' that can survive for decades. This could explain why Kerry's TB emerged about her breast surgery.
In the last 20 years TB cases have gradually increased in the UK, particularly among ethnic minority communities originally from places where TB is widespread.
It was bad news. The TB infection was back and it had eaten away at the scar tissue, causing the implant to burst.
The risk of infection was serious and Kerry was told to have the implants taken out.
Call-centre worker Shannon recalls:
'Mum tried so hard to smile on her wedding day but she kept crossing her
arms because the dress no longer fitted her chest and it was gaping
operation, Kerry’s confidence crumbled and she admitted she felt like a
freak without her implants. Finally, a year later, she got the all-clear
to have them replaced.
'I remember Mum laughing and joking and letting us all have a squeeze because she had her boobs back,' says Shannon. 'She was over the moon and said everything would get back to normal now.'
Only it wasn’t to be because just a
few months after the second operation, accounts worker Kerry’s other
boob popped open and the implants had to be removed for a second time.
This time she was left with scarring across both boobs and an open wound on her right.
also revealed the devastating news that Kerry had caught MRSA while she
was in hospital. It meant yet more medication but, finally, Kerry beat
it and she decided to have another baby with Darren.
Family tragedy: Kerry Elia pictured with her youngest daughter Madison (left) her mother Linda and daughters Shannon and Lorraine
Funeral: Kerry Elia who died after a series of complications which was triggered by her boob job
Baby Madison was born in June 2005 and Kerry was advised it was safe to breast-feed her.
within a matter of months their happiness was destroyed when doctors
told Kerry that the TB had returned and then discovered a lump in her
Shannon says: 'At first we feared cancer but tests showed that it was scar tissue from all of the breast operations that was turning septic.
'It meant that Mum might end up getting blood poisoning and die.'
Kerry was advised to have her left breast completely removed but, instead, she begged surgeons to remove them both.
Linda explains: 'She’d been through so much by then she didn’t care anymore. She wanted them gone so she could get well again and get back to being a good wife and mum.”
Kerry in her late teens: She was never happy with her flat-chest
The following week, Kerry had a
double mastectomy. 'It was a big operation but she still hadn’t lost her
sense of humour,' says Shannon.
Before she went home, the hospital gave Kerry a specially made mastectomy bra with built-in pads to look like breasts.
'She had us in stitches when she would ask one of us to ‘go and get my boobs’,' says Shannon.
'Sometimes my little sister would put the pads on, which made us all laugh.'
Little Maddy was just three when
Kerry started coughing again and her family feared the TB was back. She
had tubes fitted into her chest to pump in medication but it didn’t seem
to help and tests showed that she had grown resistant to all the drugs.
Doctors were left with just one option: to remove part of her lung.
Linda recalls: 'I went in with her to
hospital the night before the operation and lay on the bed with her
eating sweets and watching TV.
'She turned to me and asked if she was going to be OK and it was the first time I’d ever seen her look scared.
'Of course you will’, I told her. ‘You always are’.'
Five days after the operation Kerry was allowed home. The procedure appeared to have been a success. But a month on, Kerry started bleeding during the night and Darren quickly rushed her into hospital.
For the first two nights she seemed
stable but on the third morning, January 12, 2010, Linda called and was
given the devastating news that Kerry had passed away.
'I was actually on my way to see her. I said they must have the wrong person. I dropped the phone and thought I was going to collapse,' she says.
Linda asked Kerry’s sister to go to
Shannon’s office and break the news. At the hospital, the family was
told Kerry had died of internal bleeding. An artery in her heart had
collapsed under the stress.
She was only 40 and her body just couldn’t take it any more.
Shannon made sure her mother's fake breasts were in her coffin when she was cremated.
'She never went anywhere without them so I know she would have liked that,' she says.
never really blamed her boobs for all that happened to her, even though
her health only went downhill after she had the chest implants.
'They made her so happy, but in the end she knew it wasn’t worth it. Her boobs robbed her of so much.
'But they also robbed us of the most loveliest mum we could have wished for and we miss her.
'Mum wanted bigger boobs but they killed her – we’d do anything to have her back the way she was.'
For more information about issues surrounding TB visit www.TBalert.org and if you would like to make a donation to the charity please visit Kerry’s just giving page at www.justgiving.com/Kerry-Elia/