Playmate Crystal Hefner revealed last July that she decided to remove her breast implants because she felt they were making her sick, and now two other Playboymodels are coming forward to share their own stories — both have removed their implants due to suffering what they believe to be breast implant illness.
Karen McDougal originally decided to get breast implants in 1996 to boost her self-esteem.
“I thought, superficially, it would make me feel more womanly to have bigger breasts,” McDougal, 45, tells PEOPLE. “It was a stupid thing to do.”
Seven years after getting her implants, McDougal started having thyroid and adrenal problems, developed severe allergies, and began getting sick constantly.
“I would get sick every couple of months and be sick for six to eight weeks at a time,” she says. “It just never went away.”
McDougal just tolerated these symptoms, until things became even worse in January of last year.
“I started having vision disturbances, blacking out, dizzy spells,” she says. “Then July came and it just became so bad that I was passing out and I was afraid to leave the house. In October 2016, I was on bed rest. I couldn’t drive, I was having panic attacks, I couldn’t see. I had hearing sensitivity, I couldn’t stand noise, I couldn’t tolerate light, I had joint pain, brain fog — the list goes on and on.”
The Arizona-based model went to see several doctors, but no one could find anything wrong with her. Eventually, she heard about breast implant illness from a friend’s wife.
“I rolled my eyes — I had never heard of it,” she says. “Then I started getting sicker, and I started researching breast implant illness, and I talked to women online who were going through the same thing and having the same symptoms and issues.”
On Jan. 31, McDougal decided to have her implants removed.
“I wanted to make sure I made the right decision, and that’s why it took me a year to do it,” she says. “I got to the point where I had no life and I literally thought I was dying. It was time to get them removed. Do I regret removing them? No. Do I miss having larger breasts? Yes, of course I do. But my health is so much more important than breasts.”
As soon as her implants were removed, McDougal noticed an improvement in her health.
“I noticed right away that I had no more blurry vision, I wasn’t blacking out or passing out, I didn’t have the severe migraines, my joint pain was gone, my sound sensitivity was better,” she says. “It took me 20 years to get ‘poisoned,’ so it’s not going to be an overnight process. I still have to go through a detox process to get rid of all the toxins in my body, but it’s definitely an improvement. I feel like I can actually live and enjoy life now.”
McDougal wanted to share her story because little is known about breast implant illness, and she wants to help educate other women who may be experiencing similar symptoms.
“If someone hadn’t told me, I’d still wonder what’s wrong with me,” she says. “It’s important to get the education out there. If you smoke, you’re warned that smoking may cause cancer. If you get implants, why don’t they warn us that these are the possibilities of what could happen to you? Let us make that decision.”
Kimberly Holland, another former Playboy model, decided to get her breast implants removed after a friend of hers had her own bout with breast implant illness.
Holland initially got breast implants in 2004, but didn’t experience any issues until she got them replaced with silicon “gummy bear” implants in 2012.
“I remember even that day and that whole week when I got back from surgery, I felt like my body was on fire,” the Florida-based registered nurse, 34, tells PEOPLE. “It was the most pain I had ever been in in my life. It was strange because the first time I had surgery I didn’t have any pain or problems.”
A month after getting her implants, Holland broke out with a viral rash on her back that kept recurring. She also began getting chronic dental infections and developed Raynaud’s disease, a disorder that causes hands and other extremities to feel extremely cold and turn white, blue and/or red.
Holland began researching her symptoms, and saw that many of them were linked to breast implant illness. She also saw that the manufacturer of her implants had recalled a number of the implants shipped after 2015 because of contamination. (Though hers were implanted before, she believes they also may be contaminated.)
Last Monday, Holland underwent an “explant” procedure to have her implants removed.
“I just wanted them out,” she says. “I didn’t want to waste any more of my time or my health. There was no point in waiting. I have a son who’s a toddler — I need to be around and be healthy.”
Holland decided to share her story because she doesn’t believe enough women are aware of the possible dangers of breast implants.
“I felt compelled to come forward because I think other women need to hear about this,” she says. “I think it’s wrong that the cosmetic surgery industry is just blowing this off.”
Because she had her implants removed so recently, she is still dealing with many of the physical symptoms she had before the procedure.
“It takes time for your body to flush out all the toxins,” says Holland, “but I feel better mentally because I know that I’m free.”