A campaigner says having a mesh implant left her in intense pain and turned her into a wreck. This is her story.
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A review has called for an apology by the government for NHS failures in listening to the concerns of women left with life-changing complications after having a vaginal mesh implant.
Campaigner and journalist Kath Sansom, 52, says having a mesh implant left her in intense pain, describing surgery as like ‘Russian roulette’. Here she recounts her story for Sky News:
I set up the support page Sling the Mesh on Facebook, in June 2015, just 10 weeks after I had a mesh implant to treat incontinence from childbirth.
The pain in my legs and feet was so intense, along with burning pains in my vagina – like being cut with a cheese wire – that I knew something was terribly wrong.
When I told my surgeon of the pain I was suffering I was ignored. He told me I must have a slipped disc.
I had walked into the operating theatre as one of the fittest mothers in her 40s you could wish to meet – a keen high board diver, mountain biker and boxer – and emerged a physical wreck.
When I searched online I discovered women worldwide suffering similar problems. All were being ignored, not only by their surgeons but also by the media.
It probably needed a journalist to be mesh injured to provide the final media push needed for the issue to get to Westminster.
That journalist just happened to be me – a mum-of-two living in a small Fenland town more used to writing stories about animal rescues or council planning agendas than being suddenly caught up in what some medical professionals describe as the biggest health scandal of our time.
The mesh fight began in Britain in 2007 with TVT Mum, Meshies United, TVT Info, Welsh Mesh Survivors and Scottish Mesh Survivors – the latter achieving a suspension of the plastic pelvic implants in Scottish Parliament in 2014 and a subsequent independent inquiry into its safety.
Many other groups globally have fought for years too, all with one common goal – to stop others suffering as we have done.
Over and again we have told our stories. That is what we were prepared to do, as it was the only way to make people sit up and take notice, to realise the scale of personal tragedy that mesh can cause when you suffer irreversible and life-altering complications.
Harry Evans, editor of the Sunday Times when the Thalidomide scandal broke in the 60s and 70s, said you must tell a story over and over until people get it. He ran Thalidomide articles every week for months until finally everybody realised what a huge scandal it was.
And so it is with mesh. Globally, men and women injured by both pelvic and hernia mesh implants have told their stories. And finally people get it.
NHS must apologise for dismissing pelvic mesh and anti-epilepsy drug patients' suffering
In October 2017, the women and men in Sling the Mesh triggered a debate in Westminster and a further debate in Parliament in April 2018 when we called for a version of the US’ Sunshine Payment Act to force doctors to declare their financial ties to industry.
This will show who is paying your doctor behind the scenes and will be an invaluable tool for all future patient safety campaigners. It will show if their views on certain medical treatments are conflicted.
We called for mesh procedures to be stopped immediately.
When undergoing this surgery it is Russian roulette as to whether it will be successful or not.
A survey of 844 women on the 8,200-strong Sling The Mesh Facebook support group shows the average time to report complications is seven years after surgery so sadly, what we are seeing today of the mesh scandal, is only the tip of the iceberg.
We hope that the British government will agree that a so-called simple mesh surgery fix is a risk not worth taking with a woman’s health.