This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the first silicone breast implant. While more than 300,000 American women will receive breast augmentation surgery this year, the first recipient of breast implants will likely be reflecting on a life well lived. A recent article in the New York Daily News interviewed Timmie Jean Lindsey, who received breast implants in 1962, and is now an 80-year-old great-grandmother.
How did Lindsey become the first woman to receive silicone breast implants? A timely encounter with Houston plastic surgeon Dr. Frank Gerow, who was instrumental in the creation of the devices and wanted to test them. Lindsey had approached Dr. Gerow to have tattoos from her chest removed, but the surgeon told her that she was the perfect candidate for his newly developed breast implants.
The factory worker and divorced mother of six quickly agreed to the procedure. “I had never heard the term ‘guinea pig’ back then. I just thought it was privilege to have it done,” Lindsey told the Daily News. “It wasn’t a big deal to me. I went from a B to a C cup. But it made men more aware of me. More men would whistle at me.”
How have Lindsey’s implants fared over the years? They’ve held strong without any leaking or ruptures, but have calcified a bit, so that Lindsey sometimes feels sore during chest exercises. Her breasts have sagged due to the effects of age and gravity.
Does she have any regrets? Not really. Lindsey told the Daily News that she was happy to have been a part of the development of breast reconstruction surgery. One of her granddaughters recently had a double mastectomy and full reconstruction after breast cancer.
“It just looks so natural. They can build them up just like the real thing. I’m so proud that it’s available to so many women. It’s not vanity getting reconstruction. I think it’s necessary. It puts them back whole again. I’m so happy if Dr. Gerow’s silicone implants are what started it all.”