The Worlds First Boob Job, Then and Now.
In the midst of the first international conference on breast enlargement in 2007, the woman who underwent the world’s first boob job, a Texan grandmother named Timmie Jean Lindsey, revealed the years of intense pain and misery she experienced as a result of the silicone implants. In 1962, Timmie Jean agreed to act as guinea pig for a young plastic surgeon named Frank Gerow, who convinced the newly-divorced housewife to receive the experimental breast implants, which were, he assured her, “as harmless as water.” Timmie Jean Lindsey’s chilling account of her breast augmentation at the hands of Gerow and his colleagues sheds light on the significant dangers that women with breast augmentations face today.
A retired neurologist and former friend of the plastic surgeon talks about Gerow and his colleague Dr. Thomas Cronin’s largely unsuccessful experiments with breast implants before Timmie Jean herself actually went under the scalpel. “First they tried direct injections of silicone into women who were, by and large, the wives of medical students,” Dr. Bernard Patten recalls. “They had massive inflammatory reactions and it gave them hard, painful, disgusting-looking breasts.” It was because of this misstep that the plastic surgeons decided to enclose the silicone in a bag, in a development that would lead to the breast implants that we know today.
Despite that fact that Gerow was a qualified plastic surgery professor at Houston’s esteemed Baylor University medical school, at least one colleague of his feared that Gerow was taking advantage of the vulnerability of Timmie Jean and the 11 other women who agreed to take part in the plastic surgery “study.” There were serious doubts about the impropriety of the boob job experiments, but Gerow was reportedly determined to do something with plastic surgery that would trump the artificial heart a contemporary cardiovascular surgeon at Baylor was working on. Well, he certainly succeeded.
Timmie Jean says that when the anesthetic wore off, she felt like an elephant was sitting on her chest. But when the bandages came off ten days later, she recalls, her breasts looked beautiful, and all of the doctors were proud of the “masterpiece.” As word got out about Timmie Jean’s miracle boob job, women from all over began clamoring for the breast implants that the plastic surgeons claimed were crucial to the self esteem of women with “limited development of the breasts.” And the procedure would probably make all of them happier, they said.
Timmie Jean may have been happier with her breast implants…until about ten years after the procedure, when she began to suffer from serious side effects of the boob job. First, her breasts began to harden, which she learned was caused by scar tissue that forms around the implant. According to studies on breast augmentation, one in five women with breast implants experience similar hardening, known as “capsular contracture.” In the eighties, Timmie Jean began to experience shooting pains, which doctors say is the most common complication with breast implants. Timmie Jean also suffered from additional complications of the boob job, including dry eyes, dry mouth, rashes and chronic fatigue, explaining that she “was hurting everywhere.”
When Timmie Jean explained her symptoms to Dr. Gerow, he claimed that she was suffering from a series of other disorders, assuring her that “silicone does not make you sick.” Meanwhile, opponents of the breast implants insist Timmie Jean was experiencing classic symptoms of silicone damage. Other recipients of breast implants struggled with breast implant rupture, arthritis, paralysis, chest pains, migraines, and other life-altering complications. When tens of thousands of lawsuits began to be filed against Dow Corning (to whom Cronin and Gerow sold the rights to their invention), Timmie Jean refused to join the action, claiming that she had no complaints about the implants. This seems unlikely given the suffering Timmie Jean experienced because of the boob job, and could only be explained by the fact that she was paid off by the company. “A minimal amount,” she says.
As the plastic surgery industry grows exponentially in the United States and in other countries like Britain, bigger breasts are becoming more of a necessary accessory than anything else. In fact, industry experts report that a woman’s “ideal” size has grown from the C-cup Timmie Jean received, to a D. Unfortunately, the risk of severe complications associated with breast augmentation, including breast implant rupture, has not deterred the hundreds of thousands of women who go under the knife every year. Even Timmie Jean, whose unfortunate tale of insecurity and misplaced trust has brought to light the dark side of the plastic surgery industry, has decided to forgo breast implant removal and endure the pain her boob job has caused her – mostly because she is afraid of what might happen if she goes under.