South Yunderup woman speaks out on operation that ruined her life

A South Yunderup woman is living in constant pain, taking up to 37 tablets every day, after a common procedure to fix occasional bladder mishaps transformed her life into agony.

The woman, who didn’t want to be named, got a vaginal mesh sling inserted during a combined – and eventful – hysterectomy and bladder control surgery in August 2014. 

Since then, the woman can barely walk to her front door.

She struggles with excruciating pain in her thighs, groin and backside, and has had to give up her social life almost completely.  

“My entire life has been changed socially, mentally, sexually, and spiritually in every way,” she said.

“They’ve destroyed my life.”

The woman, who said she was never informed of potential adverse effects of the surgery, has spent the past three years looking for answers, only to be passed around from specialist to specialist without getting a diagnosis.

She has undergone hip injections, CAT scans, physiotherapy and spinal surgery without results.

The woman said mesh victims often got treated like the problem was all in their heads, losing the support of their doctors, family and friends, which leads many women to suffer from depression.

She said she struggles with mental health issues and has even had suicidal thoughts.

“I think every now and again, ‘what’s the point of living’ because I’m not living the life I intended to,” she said.

“Suicide is on a lot of women’s minds because what’s the point in going on like this?

“I’ve just about given up to be honest.”

Three months ago, she read about other women’s mesh-related health problems and the Senate Inquiry into transvaginal mesh implants and related mattersfor the first time.

Devastating: The resident says suffering from mesh-related health issues can be very isolating. Photo: Marta Pascual Juanola.

Devastating: The resident says suffering from mesh-related health issues can be very isolating. Photo: Marta Pascual Juanola.

“That’s when it all became quite obvious that there was many thousands of women,” she said.

“I realised I was not the only victim, and that all the victims have all very similar stories.”

She joined a Perth-based support group for mesh victims and prepared her own submission for the inquiry, which will be reported on November 30. 

Now, the woman hopes to raise awareness about the issues associated with vaginal mesh implants to prevent other women from suffering.

She would like patients to be fully informed of the risks before any procedures, whether it be the installation of pacemakers or surgical meshes, and she would like the vaginal mesh to be banned until it’s properly revised. 

“I just want people to know that the mesh isn’t the start and the finish of anything good; it’s usually the start and the finish of everything bad,” she said.

“I want a mesh warning out there for people.”

It is unclear how many sufferers there are in Australia. But a class action involving more than 700 women was lodged against pharmaceutical giant and mesh producer Johnson and Johnson earlier this year. 

The vaginal mesh is used to treat to conditions including incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. 

According to the Australian Department of Health’s Therapeutic Goods Administration, adverse effects associated with the meshes include allergic reactions, swelling, scarring, mesh migrations, atypical vaginal discharge, bleeding, incontinence, neuromuscular problems, infections, and pain during intercourse, among others. 

There are currently no surgeons in Australia capable of removing pelvic mesh completely, forcing many women to travel overseas for treatment.

WA Health Minister Roger Cook this month announced the establishment of a free-call line for women affected by mesh implants. 

The confidential contact line is currently being developed and will be managed by the King Edward Memorial Hospital.

Women concerned about the safety of pelvic mesh should call the contact line on 1800 962 202.

For mental health support services call Beyond Blue’s helpline on 1300 22 4636.