Film Subjects

Angie Firmalino and the E-Sisters

Angie Firmalino was implanted with Essure in 2009. After two years of severe health issues caused by the device, she founded Essure Problems, a 38,000+ strong patient advocacy group, that now brings patients and activists together in their fight for medical device safety. Angie and her fellow E-Sisters also founded the nonprofit organization Advocating Safety in Healthcare E-Sisters (ASHES) in 2015.

ASHES educates people on the potential dangers of medical devices. The group provides guidance on how to conduct research on devices and clinicians, advocates on behalf of those harmed by devices, helps people find doctors, and offers emotional and mental health support within the patient community.

ASHES also raises awareness about the pitfalls of the FDA’s medical device approval processes, and fights to bring about urgent changes to these dangerous practices. ASHES was instrumental in getting three bills introduced in Congress regarding medical device safety—and only days after ASHES protested outside of Bayer’s corporate headquarters, the company announced its plan to remove Essure from the American market.

ASHES relies solely on donations to the nonprofit to fund their direct service and advocacy work. These donations help patients find reliable research and resources, as well as further the group’s efforts in Congress for reform.

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Ana Fuentes

After Ana Fuentes was implanted with Essure, the device caused a downward spiral of health problems that dramatically affected her personal and professional life. Unable to sustain a job due to her debilitating health and without any health insurance, Ana made the impossible decision to place her children with church foster families. Since The Bleeding Edge filming wrapped, Ana has been able to secure a place to live via a local California homeless assistance program and has been reunited with her four daughters.

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Tammy Jackson

Tammy Jackson is a mother of three and former nurse living in Kentucky with her daughter Byonia and husband Byron. Her life was irreparably upended due to the pelvic mesh treatment she received for stress urinary incontinence. While Tammy has been a leader for the medical device safety movement for years, she has recently had to step back from her activist work due to her debilitating health. After 21 surgeries, Tammy is now waiting for a kidney transplant and yet another partial mesh removal surgery, and her husband Byron recently lost his job of 29 years when the plant where he worked shut down.

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Dr. Stephen Tower

Dr. Stephen Tower is an orthopedic surgeon in Anchorage, Alaska. He received his medical degree from University of Washington School of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years. After discovering that he had cobalt poisoning due to a cobalt hip plant, Dr. Tower began researching the effects of these metal implants. He is currently conducting further research on the correlation between implants containing cobalt and cognitive decline, and is trying to bring awareness to the issue in the hopes of alerting millions of Americans who may not know they are at risk.

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Da Vinci Robot Patients

The da Vinci Surgical System continues to be used at hospitals around the country, and it is estimated that since the year 2000, the surgical system has been used in over 3 million procedures worldwide. In inexperienced hands, the robot can produce dangerous complications and injuries. The patients featured in The Bleeding Edge—Julie Dailey, Mary McNulty, Lory Shanyfelt, Debra Rybos, Astarre Gudino, and Vicki Mills—join the voices of thousands of patients around the country asking for better regulation and accountability.

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