Crossmaglen woman says “life has been destroyed” by mesh implant surgery
A local woman has spoken of the constant pain she suffers as a result of undergoing a controversial vaginal mesh implant almost ten years ago. Fifty nine year old Mary Morris from Crossmaglen spoke to The Examiner about her ordeal ahead of a Westminster debate on the issue which is due to take place this Wednesday (18th October).
Representatives of the Northern Ireland campaign group “MeshedUp NI” – of which Mary is a member – will join representatives of the UK “Sling the Mesh” campaign to discuss with British MPs the risks associated with the implants after hundreds of thousands of women worldwide reported debilitating complications including perforated organs, nerve damage and chronic pain as a result of the surgery.
The campaign groups are calling for a total ban on the use of the polypropolene implants which surgeons routinely use to treat incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse and hernia. More than 100,000 women in the UK have been fitted with the implants and for many the operation is a success. Others, like Mary, suffer traumatic complications and live in constant physical and mental pain.
The mother-of-three was 50 years old when she had the operation to cure her incontinence in 2009. But what she was left with, she says, was excruciating pain that has destroyed her quality of life.
She says she was never told by her surgeons about any potential risks associated with the implants before undergoing the operation.
“I’ve been left with permanent nerve damage in my groin and leg since the mesh implant and have suffered damage to my bowel and bladder too. I could feel the mesh coming out of my inner thigh whenever I was walking, the pain was horrific, like a hot burning saw cutting into me. The mesh was eroding and left me with an open wound,” says Mary.
The traumatic complications have been constant in Mary’s life ever since, leaving her in permanent pain and unable to do any of the things she used to do before. As the mother of a son with autism, she says the debilitating effects have ruined her family life and she now depends on her daughter to do everything for her.
Describing the mesh procedure as “barbaric” Mary went on to recall one of her darkest moments last October, sobbing uncontrollably with her doctor, begging him to remove the mesh as she felt she could no longer go on with the pain she was suffering all day, every day.
“I can put on the mask that everything is ok and be bubbly for the outside world but inside I am in constant pain. I just felt so low at one point that I wanted to end it. I have begged and pleaded to have the mesh removed but it was only when I joined MeshedUpNI that I learned there aren’t any surgeons in Northern Ireland who are qualified to fully remove the implants.”
She has had countless hospital admissions over the years to try to end the pain and in 2014 she had the implant partially removed – a procedure she says has left her “even worse than I was before” and still incontinent and in pain.
“I was devastated to wake from that operation to be told it could only be partially removed,” she says.
Hope is on the horizon though in the shape of London based Consultant Urogynaecologist Sohier Elneil who is an expert in mesh implant removal. Mary is hoping to be referred to Dr. Elneil soon for full removal of the mesh – a referral process she says has been extremely tough.
“I’m halfway there but I still have to have further consultations before I get the go ahead for London.”
“It’s totally barbaric to leave so many men and women in this condition. Some of those affected are in wheelchairs as a result of the operation. The medical profession is not listening to us. I and hundreds like me are living with constant pain. I shouldn’t have to suffer for almost 10 years before something is done.”
The Crossmaglen woman says she hopes this week’s Westminster debate will be a step towards banning the operation in Northern Ireland, England and Wales – to tie in with Scotland where it was suspended in June 2014, after Alex Neil, then health secretary, met scores of victims crippled by the surgery.
Medical watchdogs insist however that the potential benefits of mesh implants outweigh the risks, whilst campaigners say international safety warnings and evidence of the dangers of the surgery, have been ignored or withheld.
Jackie Harvey from support group Meshed Up NI, also looks forward to Wednesday’s parliamentary debate on the issue.
“So many women (and men) are being left traumatised by these various mesh procedures. They are going to doctors for help and are just basically being fobbed off. It’s appalling,” Jackie told The Examiner.
“I hear the same story day in, day out from women looking for help and there’s nobody there to help them. Where can these women go to? They are being left on the scrapheap and that’s just heartbreaking. There needs to be a ban put in place and a public enquiry into the damage done and misery caused by these devices.”
If you have been affected by a mesh implant procedure, support and advice is available on thejFacebook support group Meshed Up NI or email email@example.com”