Tom Pafford in training for the Mr. Tennessee
competition in 1974

Tom Pafford remembers the day he died.

It was Nov. 5, 2001. He was returning to work from lunch when he started vomiting. He felt a tightness in his massive chest. Pafford, 51 at the time, went to see the nurse at the construction job site he was managing. She was placing a blood-pressure cuff on his arm when his heart stopped.

“I was dead,” says Pafford, who was saved when the nurse shocked him back to life using an automatic external defribrillator.

The incident left more than one scar on Pafford, who now wears a surgically implanted defibrillator to guard against future heart failures. It left a mark on his psyche, fracturing the confidence of a former world-class weightlifter and bodybuilder who once bench pressed 575 pounds in competition and had won the title of Mr. Tennessee. Pafford had kept in peak physical condition, running five miles a day right up until the morning of his heart attack. His “good cholesterol” level, or HDL, was incredibly good, better than the doctor had ever seen.

“The doctor said, ‘I can’t tell you why this happened,’” recalls Pafford. “I knew something was wrong. Something like that just doesn’t happen. I had no heart disease in my family. I had good cholesterol ...”

The answer came on Sept. 30, 2004. That was the day Merck & Co. announced it was removing its painkiller prescription drug Vioxx from the market because studies linked it to heart attacks and stroke. Pafford had been taking Vioxx for 18 months – the same duration as patients in the latest Vioxx study – for a shoulder injury he had injured back in his college football days.

“I was still on Vioxx even after the heart attack, until 2004. The minute the news came out my wife called me, I was in India on a project, and she said, ‘You’ve got to get off that stuff!’”

Pafford, who has hired Kline & Specter to represent him, is convinced it was Vioxx that took his life, almost for good.

“The doctors, they couldn’t come up with any reasons this happened to me. There is nothing else,” he says. “The doctors and the scientists they say there’s problems with Vioxx.”

Pafford did two things when he realized Vioxx resulted in his heart attack. For one, he stopped jogging and working out because of his condition. He can’t even play ball with his 15-year-old son for fear he may bump the implanted box that sticks out from his chest. (Because of his big build, surgeons could not implant the defibrillator beneath the pectoral muscle and had to place it between the muscle and his skin. The device makes it hard to find clothes that fit properly, hard to move about, hard to sleep.)

Then Pafford got angry. He read news accounts that Merck officials knew there were problems with Vioxx but did not voluntarily remove the best-selling drug from the market until a study – an unrelated study in which Merck was trying to prove that Vioxx also worked to reduce colon polyps – showed that Vioxx users were more than twice as likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes.

“Am I mad? If they prove conclusively, and I think they will, that the upper level executives at Merck knew about the problems with this drug and did nothing about it, they ought to put them on trial for murder,” he says. “They screwed me. It’s a good thing I’m not sitting across a table from one of their executives right now ...”

Pafford was almost one of those fatalities he talks about. If not for the fact that a defibrillator had recently been purchased on the Tampa job site where he was working at the time of his heart attack, he probably would not have survived. “What were the chances,” he asks, “that I’d be on a job site and they’d have a defibrillator just five feet behind me?”

Still, Pafford suffered and he continues to suffer. To compensate for the strenuous exercise regimen he can no longer perform, Pafford now diets, eating just one meal a day and maybe a small snack at night. His weight has dropped from the 280 pounds of his peak body-building days to about 225.

Some of the swagger has gone from Pafford’s gait, his strong-man persona has vanished. Once a picture of confidence, Pafford now must live with the constant fear that his heart could give out at a moment’s notice.

“As far as I’m concerned, there is no way they can compensate me for what they’ve done to me,” he says. “It’s ruined the quality of my life.”

If you or a loved one has experienced side effects such as a heart attack or other cardiovascular event after taking Vioxx, you may have a claim against Merck. Kline & Specter, PC, with more than 35 experienced attorneys (several of whom are also highly regarded doctors), is one of the nation's leading law firms with the ability to litigate Vioxx lawsuits. Unlike some lawyers who may take cases and refer them to other firms to take to trial, Kline & Specter has the skill, experience and ability to achieve the right result for you and your family.

For a free evaluation of your Vioxx claim contact our experienced Vioxx heart attack attorneys today. We will evaluate your Vioxx heart attack or stroke lawsuit and help you get the settlement you deserve.

 

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