For people, who don't know, pelvic mesh device is a transvaginal tape used to treat urinary stress incontinence and pelvic prolapse that women suffer from as a result of childbirth and from the ageing process.
And, thousands of Irish women have been implanted with such a device and now there is a growing number of women who are suffering dreadful complications, following pelvic mesh surgery.
I came across this story a number of months ago when a midlands woman, affected by horrific complications contacted me at the 'Tribune' before the group, Mesh Survivors Ireland protested outside Leinster House. Bravely speaking to me, this lady outlined some of the painful and devastating complications she had suffered having been implanted with the device.
Mesh Survivors Ireland was set up in October 2017 to bring together this growing number of women, suffering with complications and the group met in Tullamore on July 13 last. Women from ten counties travelled to Offaly that day where they met to discuss their situations.
Some ladies in the group were symptom free for up to eight years before device complications began. Women say they weren't told of the devastating risks associated with this device. For many with minor incontinence on exercise, such an operation would not have been considered if they were informed by their doctors of the serious risks involved.
Known risks of surgical procedures for the treatment of incontinence include pain, infection, erosion/exposure, and device migration, complete failure of the procedure resulting in incontinence due to incomplete support or overactive bladder.
Further risks include pain or discomfort of the vagina or in the surrounding pelvic region, nerve damage including pain or loss of sensation in the vagina or surrounding pelvic region, vaginal scarring, vaginal shrinkage, pain during intercourse, recurrence of POP or SUI or a new occurrence of SUIT.
Following the recent meeting in Tullamore, the group issued a statement to the 'Tribune' saying that “this scandal has been compared worldwide to the thalidomide scandal” and they are asking that you lend your support to Mesh Survivors Ireland.
“Mesh survivors don't want to wait until somebody dies from complications to be heard so action is needed. At the moment, there's a mesh injured lady in ICU with mesh complications and please God, she will pull out of it.”
CMO report on use of transvaginal mesh
Minister for Health Simon Harris TD published the report from Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, on the clinical and technical issues associated with the use of Uro-Gynaecological Mesh (also referred to as Transvaginal Mesh Implants (TVMIs) in November 2018. Minister Harris had asked Dr Holohan to prepare the report in response to a number of concerns raised about the frequency and severity of complications associated with the use of TVMIs in some women.
The report makes 19 recommendations in all, including the necessity to develop patient information and informed consent materials; surgical professional training and multi-disciplinary expertise in units carrying out mesh procedures, and ensuring timely, appropriate and accessible care pathways for the management of women with complication.
“The women with Mesh complications find that Mesh pathways are not working they just suggest subjecting women to numerous invasive tests they have already been through. Women are losing faith in the doctors here. So many women have had to borrow, or remortgage their homes to get to the UK for treatment we need and this is not acceptable in this day and age. Also the FDA has renewed conditions for device manufactures and Bard has withdrawn all mesh due to their reasoning of higher costs in accommodating their new restrictions to comply.”
“An Independent enquiry and retrospective audit is essential,” the group stated. “We need Minister Simon Harris to commit to the independent enquiry and totally independent of HSE and consultants who put in mesh. We would like to urge Minister Harris, the government, the HSE and everyone in this country to watch a documentary called The Bleeding Edge released on Netflix at the end of July 18 on medical devices. It’s a must see for everyone and an eye opening documentary.”
Carol Nolan, TD also met some of the survivors in Tullamore on the day, having met with them also when the group protested outside Leinster House last year. Speaking to the 'Tribune' last week, Deputy Nolan said she was aware of a number of women in the constituency, who have been adversely affected by mesh and who have been seeking assistance from the Health Minister for sometime in order to have mesh removal surgery by a specialist abroad.
“These women are in a lot of pain, have no quality of life and in many cases, they are unable to work and are confined to bed for long periods of time. This in turn impacts greatly on their families.”
The local TD has called on the Minister for Health to “urgently make funding available in the interest of women's health for these women to have mesh removals”. She has also submitted Parliamentary Questions to the Minister on this issue, the most recent in May last.
It is also understood that unfortunately, the Mesh Advisory Group, referred to in one of the PQ replies, was suspended last month, because it didn't adequately represent the survivors of mesh.
Quotes from a few Mesh Ladies
“I was implanted with mesh in 2016 and my life destroyed as a result of it. I have been left with chronic pelvic, vaginal pain, urethral pain, leg pain. It eroded into my vagina which was trimmed and left me worse off. Since the day I was implanted I have been no longer able to have intercourse. It has taken my sex life and relationship away from me. I tried to continue to work and now it has also taken the job I love so much away from me. I have tried going through the mesh pathways for help and I have been thrown from Billy to Jack and back again. These pathways are clearly not working for mesh injured, as a result of HSE and Health Minister and my deteriorating health I was left with no option but to borrow to get mesh removed by a specialist surgeon in the UK.
- Offaly woman
“In 2011 I got my first mesh and second in 2012 as my doctor said the first one didn’t work and guaranteed the second one would work. I still wasn’t warned of the dangers of mesh and didn’t know how it was going to change my life! In 2015 I had two operations done, first was to allow my urine to fix the tube of my bladder where the mesh cut through it and then to fix my uterus to remove a 2cm stone to allow me urinate. I was on a colonoscopy bag for three weeks; I had to wait 12 weeks before I could get my other operation to remove mesh with one piece embedded in my bladder and another in my stomach. I had to get this done in a UK hospital as no one was able to do it here in Ireland. I am lucky to be alive and I feel any woman or man suffering in this country, whether private or on a medical card should be allowed access to this treatment in the UK. It takes years to pick up after removal but at least I’m living not walking around like a zombie.
- Laois woman
“Approximately £22,000 spent on removal after paying to get implant done in Ireland. It kills me to think I paid to have it in. I am so much better now. If I didn’t have the money to have it out I think I would have killed myself. The pain was so bad.
- Laois woman
“Tvt procedure robbed me of my career and is still ruining my life.
- Laois woman
“Empowering and uplifting when the friends of strong injured ladies of Ireland have only one another to support for this global scandal called mesh injury! Burden of it must be returned to the system which caused it!
“Living with chronic pain and having limited mobility impacts on everything. Things we wouldn't have even thought twice about before, are now huge considerations, and the path of least resistance has to be considered to minimize the impact on my condition, which in unfair on my family. It's disgraceful that families are left to figure out all of this without any assistance or support, especially when this was all done to them.
The government and HSE can help women and affected families by accepting responsibility for what has happened to women's health in this country. We need an independent external report equivalent to the Scally Report to gain the truth behind what has happened with mesh. We also need an apology from our government for what has been done to us. They have accepted there were failings in our care in the CMO report so there should be access given to whatever financial schemes are at their disposal to ensure women and their families get the help that they so badly need.
- Carlow woman
“Every mesh survivors Ireland meet up gives me mixed emotions, relief that I’m not alone in my suffering which turns to sadness and shock of what others have had to endure, empty promises from the health sector and denial from consultants about mesh complications.
- Wicklow woman