The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
June 2, 2000
OBITUARIES: SANDY SPRINGS: P.J. Brent, 49, launched crusade
against breast implants
Stephania H. Davis, Staff
The last movie P.J. Brent saw was "Erin Brockovich," the story of an ordinary woman who excelled at getting money from a big corporation for people poisoned by toxins.
Mrs. Brent found her own poison to fight against right under her skin. The breast implants she received in 1982 --- which she believed caused her health problems and those of her two youngest children --- led her to launch a worldwide crusade against implants.
"She had been in Washington testifying and on CNN Headline News and in newspapers and on radio, all in an effort to say don't let women have breast implants, because it killed her," said her husband, Ed Brent of Sandy Springs.
Patricia Jeanne "P.J." Brent, 49, of Sandy Springs, died Monday from injuries sustained when she jumped from a Dunwoody parking garage. The funeral was Thursday. Sandy Springs Chapel Funeral Directors was in charge of arrangements.
A native of Jersey City, N.J., Mrs. Brent moved to Atlanta in 1983 and met her second husband when both worked for Delta Airlines. Mrs. Brent had started with the company as a flight attendant a few years after high school.
Shortly after she and Mr. Brent married in 1984, she began suffering from a connective tissue disease.
"She told me on a good day it felt like you were getting out of bed with the flu," said Mr. Brent. "You know, that achy, draggy feeling." Mrs. Brent was already the mother of four healthy children, but her fifth child, born in 1985, has gastrointestinal problems that make it difficult for her to swallow. Her sixth child has constant stomach problems, aching legs and mysterious rashes, said her husband. It became clear to Mrs. Brent, her husband said, that the toxins the children ingested from breast-feeding was the cause.
"One of my daughters sleeps in leg braces and walks like a drunk because she has no feeling in her feet," said Mr. Brent. "But her mother gave her such self-esteem. She doesn't think there's anything she can't do."
After reading a newspaper article describing her symptoms perfectly, Mrs. Brent had the implants removed in 1992. Still, guilt and concern about the effect the implants had on her children lingered.
"She struggled with the fact that her poor decision affected her children," said her friend Elna Sheetz of Sandy Springs.
Mrs. Brent joined Children Afflicted by Toxic Substances (CATS), which provides information about children whose mothers had breast implants. Mrs. Brent and the organization were featured in a 1995 article in Redbook magazine.
Even as her various disorders sapped her strength, she spent hours in e-mail conversations with women all over the globe looking for information on implants.
She also car pooled for her children and volunteered at her church.
"She had this angelic personality. She was a very sweet and caring woman who took the time to listen and get back to people and make sure they got the information they needed," said Jama Russano of Northport, N.Y., founder of CATS.
"But it's difficult to fight a battle when you're sick yourself. She must have felt that she exhausted everything she had."
Survivors other than her husband include four daughters, Catherine Brent and Chrissy Brent, both of Sandy Springs, and Jennifer Kohnen and Jessica Kohnen, both of New York; two sons, Philip Kohnen of Sandy Springs and Martin Kohnen of Athens; a stepdaughter, Monica Brent of Athens; her mother, Florence Driscoll of Hawthorne, N.J.; her father and stepmother, Joseph F. and Mildred Caren of Tampa; a sister, Kathleen M. Caren of West Milford, N.J.; and two brothers, Joseph F. Caren Jr. of Tampa and Thomas M. Caren of Saddle River, N.J.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to Children Afflicted by Toxic Substances, 413 Fort Salonga Road, Northport, NY 11768.
P.J. Brent moved to Atlanta in 1983 and worked for Delta Airlines.
P.J. Brent and her Family
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