"I had about 40 lbs to lose so I first took Fen-Phen for about six months then I switched to Redux for about two months," says Gwen. "It wasn't until 2002 that my friend suggested that I join a class action against the diet drugs (she was also taking Fen-Phen) but I was perfectly fine—I was playing softball twice a week and felt good.
Even though I didn't lose any weight, I was only 42 and in pretty good shape. But it got harder to run from 1st to 2nd base. It just got worse — running from home plate to 3rd base, I thought I was going to die; I was so out of breath.
By now I'm thinking ohmigod, I really have to lose weight, this is taking me down. My friend told me again about the law suit and said that this was the last year to opt in so our attorney told us that we needed to get tested. We both went to the cardiologist and I was shocked when he told me that I had a mild to moderate mitral valve regurgitation. (I was worried because, being a critical care nurse, I am thinking of the future—I've seen the damage done to others.) The cardiologist wanted to see me every six months and my attorney assured me that I could claim some damages. (Turns out that my friend was fine…)
I was thinking that I would rather have my health than go through this. I signed up to join the class action and one year passed before I contacted the attorney to find out what was going on with the suit. But by this time, Judge Harvey Bartle stepped in to re-organize the settlement process due to so many fraudulent claims.
Two more years passed and a settlement was reached. The attorney kept telling me I was going to get compensated. Then I had an annual echo-cardiogram and the cardiologist told me that my regurgitation had progressed from mild to severe and I now had moderate aortic insufficiency. He prescribed an ace-inhibitor: that would decrease the pre-load of blood going into the heart before it contracts so the force you have to pump is less. This means that the valve is not stressed and won't dilate, which would, over time, require a new valve.
Then Katrina came. Several months after the hurricane, I contacted the same attorney—he was now based in California. Again, I got the same run-around. Finally in late 2006, he informed me that he wasn't practicing law in Louisiana and was moving to California so I should get my file from his office. (Coincidentally, three months before that, I complained about him not doing anything with my case to the LA state bar association.)
When I got my file, there was a correspondence from the trust to this attorney, saying I wasn't eligible because "the screening period ended on January 3, 2003". My first echo-cardiogram was done on January 17, 2003.
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So this is my issue: Why do I lose my rights to sue for taking a defective product? Why don't I have a right?
I wrote a letter to Judge Bartel and summarized everything that happened, just as I told you. Then I looked for another attorney on the internet. An attorney in Florida returned my call and another in Philadelphia. Both said they have a working relationship with this trust but I have hit a dead end.
I am now praying to give me acceptance for what I can't change. Right now I think I am basically screwed unless I find the right lawyer because I am really concerned that my health is going to decline, that I am going to wind up with PPH. God knows, I see enough of it in my workplace."