WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - For 31-year-old Rian Kinney, exercise isn't just a passion, it's a way of life.
By day, she's a no-nonsense sports attorney in Wellington. In her spare time she is an athlete.
"I was actually training for a half marathon when all of this started going down," Kinney said.
As Kinney continued to train, she realized it was becoming more and more difficult for her to complete her workouts.
"I kept thinking, 'gosh, I'm out of shape. I need to push harder,' " Kinney said.
Kinney didn't know it, but she was ignoring telltale signs that her active body was shutting down. The problem, she believes, was something millions of women do every single day.
"I had a cramp in my leg from my knee to my ankle for about three days," Kinney said. "I kept trying to stretch it out."
Soon, simply playing in the park with her dog Bentley became a chore.
"I was breathing hard and sweating," Kinney said. "A shooting, severe pain that was in my chest and I was pushing on it so hard that I actually caused a bruise for myself."
Kinney thought she was having a panic attack and was just stressed.
"I called my mom and said, 'I don't know what a heart attack feels like, but I'm pretty sure this is it,' " Kinney said.
What Kinney didn't know is just how close to death she really was. When she went into the hospital, Kinney said she was shocked to learn what could be to blame.
The doctors were running tests, trying to "rule out hereditary factors," Kinney said. The doctors were asking her about what medication she was taking and when they found out she was using birth control, NuvaRing, they said, 'OK' and stopped asking questions.
Kinney said she was shocked when she learned that her birth control could be to blame. "I didn't know this could happen," she said.
It turns out published reports do show that almost every form of birth control on the market, including NuvaRing, which Kinney was prescribed, has serious warnings about potential dangers. In fact, NuvaRing's literature mentions the possible side effects. NuvaRing's drug label warns of complications like "myocardial infarctions," that's a heart attack and "thromboembolic events," or blood clots.
When you open the patient information card, found inside the box, you'll find the same warnings in plain English.
Kinney isn't alone. Professional photographer and mother of two, Mallory Park was using NuvaRing too. She too, wound up in the hospital. She had a blood clot in her leg that shot to her lungs and almost killed her.
Doctors told Park, because of these complications her child-bearing years were behind her. "They said, 'if you do get pregnant, there is a chance you may not make it through the pregnancy,' " Park told the Contact 5 Investigators.
"It's ridiculous," attorney Mark Tate said. "No one should have to suffer those kinds of illnesses." Tate is part of Park's legal team. Tate is representing Park and other across the country in in a class action lawsuit.
His law firm, Tate Law Group , is representing 40 clients in a NuvaRing lawsuit; there are more than 1,000 users involved in the lawsuit.
"Every drug has side effects," Dr. Jeffrey Litt said. Litt has been prescribing birth control for 27 years. "I think we just take these drugs for granted. we have to prescribe them appropriately to the right patients, with the right warnings and with the right monitoring."
He says that includes patient accountability. Patients have to truly know their family medical history several generations back. Patients have to arrive at the appointments armed with questions.
Dr. Litt says patients should be asking the following questions before taking birth control:
- What are the side effects?
- What are the complications?
- How effective is it?
- What do I have to look for?
- How do I know if I'm having a problem?
These are questions Kinney says she never knew to ask.
As for NuvaRing, the Contact 5 Investigators found that company commercials meet federal government standards and do warn about possible complications. In a statement to WPTV, NuvaRing said, "The company is confident in the efficacy and safety profiles of NuvaRing, which are described in our product label."
"Simply stating on a commercial that this may cause blood clots is not enough," Kinney said. "I never thought it meant may cause Deep Vein Thrombosis, which could throw clots to your lungs and hear and P.S. you may die."
As angry as Kinney is about her case, you may be surprised to learn she has not joined the class action lawsuit.
"I don't want them to do away with birth control," she said. "I don't think that's the way to go. I think that by getting the information
out there and consumers being aware that they need to do some background research is the way we need to be looking at this. To have as many symptoms as I did, that's what scares me. Other people could not have the slightest clue that they're dying."