The Medical Misadventures of Surgical Mesh
Pelvic Organ Prolapse affects approximately 50% of all women and 30% of female athletes. Yet most of us have never heard of it! It is something people don't talk about.
Two of my clients are dealing with pelvic organ prolapse. Anja can manage it without the need for an operation. Renate needed an operation with a surgical mesh implant resulting in complications.
Anja wrote this:
Active and POP! Active women dealing with pelvic organ prolapse (POP)
You might tell a friend over a cup of coffee that you’ve got a sore back, but “Guess what happened, my bladder/uterus/rectum slipped.”?
“I can’t lift my child because…I’ve got an issue down below.”? Not likely!
Despite the impact a pelvic organ prolapse (POP) can have on daily life, it remains under the radar.
POP is a common condition. It affects approximately 50 per cent of women and about 30 per cent of female athletes, some of whom haven’t even given birth. It affects our family, work and social life. And yet, due to its location in the body, an intimate area, it is not talked about!
I love the outdoors. I’m a keen tramper. I do stand up paddleboarding (SUP) and kiteboarding. I feel fit and active. So why me?
That was the question I asked myself when, in July 2019, my uterus unexpectedly slipped lower than it should be.
The experience started me on a new journey. I tried to find answers. If POP was such a common condition as doctors and pelvic physios said, why was it not talked about? How did other women deal with the restrictions that POP had on their daily lives and their sporting activities? The physical, but especially the mental impacts?
Collecting stories from active women around New Zealand who have experienced a prolapse and gaining feedback from a range of pelvic health physiotherapists resulted in the Active and POP website. Women share their experiences and offer advice on something they thought would never happen to them.
Here is the website she built: https://www.activeandpop.org.nz/
Another of my clients, Renate, wrote this:
My story is not just about a physical surgical mesh injury but also my ACC and HDC experiences, which are ongoing.
In brief, I had a surgical mesh procedure to correct severe incontinence (with transobturator mesh sling) from childbirth in 2012. I sought a high level of informed consent from a “top” senior surgeon. He essentially misinformed me about the risks. I did not give informed consent.
I started experiencing strange symptoms in 2015 – muscle weakness, numbness, sore hands and feet and was diagnosed by a neurologist with peripheral neuropathy. A medical keto diet made huge improvements.
In 2017 I developed severe groin pain. Couldn’t stand long, sit long or walk very far (noting that I was previously very fit and healthy with an active outdoors lifestyle, including hunting and tramping). Nobody knew what was wrong. I saw numerous specialists including a rheumatologist as ANA tested positive.
After much research, I diagnosed myself with mesh complications. The 2 gynaecologists I saw didn’t think the mesh was a problem.
In short, in December 2017 I went to the USA to a world-renowned surgeon Dr Veronikis who had done thousands of mesh removals. Women from all over the world go to him. His clinical diagnosis established the mesh was causing my groin pain. He fully removed the mesh and the pain was immediately resolved. The pathology of the mesh indicated foreign body reaction, chronic inflammation etc (no surprises there!)
It is interesting that I have just had bloods done and autoimmune markers (ANA and thyroid antibodies) have improved markedly – I put it down to the mesh being out of my body! My journey with ACC has been a shocker. They declined my claim and eventually gave in after 2 hearings. I still find it difficult to get cover, even though my claim has been accepted! I am still in dispute with them over compensation. This is not so much about the money but rather the principle of the matter. I have spent a significant amount of time complaining about the implanting surgeon to the Health and Disability Commissioner. Not for an apology but rather to prevent further women from harm. My complaint has been closed with the decision to take no further action. Further women have since been harmed. The complaints system is clearly not working. That is why there is a petition for the right to appeal HDC decisions currently before the Health Committee: https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/sc/submissions-and-advice/document/53SCHE_EVI_97902_HE715/renate-schutte
Many women in New Zealand and elsewhere have had a lousy deal where this surgical procedure has gone wrong. Surgical mesh is capable of causing the most horrifying suffering. But, unfortunately, their nightmare is made worse because the surgeons and ACC typically ignore or deflect their cries for help. Instead of helping these women. ACC has used just about every tactic in the book to obfuscate, delay, and deny their claims for assistance with correcting the damage as best as can be done.
In addition to the information and website above, here is another NZ website where you can find out more, including connecting with women who have been harmed by this surgical procedure:
"Across the world, people are suffering from life-altering and INCREDIBLY serious chronic pain conditions caused by surgical mesh complications. Each day there are new cases coming to light. New Zealanders are suffering from ongoing health problems since having surgical mesh implanted.
Knowledge is power... click around and read. "