Sling the Mesh: Our reporter Kath launches campaign to stop the operation that’s ruining women’s lives
PUBLISHED: 09:30 05 June 2015 | UPDATED: 10:25 05 June 2015
Kath underwent the operation earlier this year – but has gone from an active mother of two to someone who struggles with daily pain.
Our reporter Kath Sansom has launched a campaign against a gynaecology operation that she says is ruining women’s lives.
Sling The Mesh has been launched after she underwent an operation to have what is known as a TVT mesh sling for bladder problems.
Since having the procedure in March, she has gone from an active mother of two to someone who struggles with daily pain. More worrying, Kath has discovered it is a global problem.
Here, Kath explains the campaign’s objectives.
"I have gone from a super fit 47-year-old who did boxing training twice a week, high board diving, swimming, mountain biking and dancing at gigs, to a physical wreck who can just about walk my dog round the park."
I feel like the unwilling victim of a cruel experiment that has gone horribly wrong.
At times my body feels like it is full of cut glass, I have burning and shooting pains, and going up a few stairs makes my legs ache terribly. I also have unexplained rashes on my arms and neck and very sore skin on my face along with runny nose - like it has set off an allergic reaction.
I decided to have a TVT mesh bladder sling after suffering what many mums are left with after natural childbirth - stress urinary incontinence.
I was told it was a minimally invasive, relatively low risk operation taking half an hour, with about 13,000 operations carried out a year in the UK on the NHS.
However, I have since found out what I thought was a body-friendly sling is made from polypropylene plastic mesh – the same material used to make drinks bottles.
The tape can be put in too tight or positioned wrongly. The tape can twist or shrink, degrade and harbour bacteria. It can damage nerves during insertion, and the bladder can be perforated as this is a blind procedure.
I was not aware I may suffer leg and pelvic pains. I was not aware this was a permanent device.
• Operation to be suspended
• If not suspended then a National Register should be launched to track future problems
• Life-changing risks to be fully explained to women
• Government to tighten up legislation on passing medical devices
I have gone from a super fit 47-year-old who did boxing training twice a week, high board diving, swimming, mountain biking and dancing at gigs, to a physical wreck who can just about walk my dog round the park.
If I walk too far (about 15 minutes), sit for too long or try to do too much, the pain kicks in.
Once inserted, the mesh takes about six weeks to knit into the tissues. After that, surgeons say that taking it out is like trying to get chewing gum out of matted hair.
My GP referred me straight away to one of only two surgeons in the UK who can successfully remove it, Natalia Price in Oxford or Sohier Elneil in London. I’m with Ms Price and am due to have the mesh removed in September.
As part of my research I have found numerous support groups, including Meshies United, TVT Mums and Scottish Mesh Survivors.
I have also discovered that, last year, this procedure was suspended in Scotland and some of the mesh devices de-registered in Australia.
I have spoken to women in wheelchairs and on crutches struggling to walk because of this operation. There are online support forums across the globe full of women suffering.
It has potentially life-changing disabling consequences. Some women live in pain for the rest of their lives.
When it goes wrong it goes spectacularly wrong – and it is not a risk worth taking.
The Medical Health Regulatory Authority (MHRA) says the benefits outweigh the risks – but I believe the catastrophic results that can occur make the operation one that should be suspended.
I want to make women aware of the potential consequence of this operation as I do not want anybody else suffering as I and thousands of others are.
Men also suffer after hernia operations
Within days of launching the campaign Kath was also contacted by a woman from New Zealand – who pointed out it is not just women suffering. The same mesh is often used in hernia repairs and there are men across the world suffering too. In New Zealand, a medical specialist has linked a mesh implant to the death of a former patient. Geoffrey Mehrtens, 54, died at Christchurch Hospital in February 2010. The father-of-three had endured significant health issues since polypropylene mesh was inserted into his abdomen during an operation to repair a hernia six years earlier. Last month, general physician Dr Lasantha Martinus, who for a period treated Mr Mehrtens at Grey Base Hospital, Greymouth, said his patient might have survived if the mesh had been removed.