Big day for women's health campaign that began its roots at our newspaper office in March - Sling The Mesh fight goes to Parliamentary lobby
PUBLISHED: 12:42 18 July 2017
More than 80 women and their families from across Britain are travelling to Parliament today (Tuesday 18) to urge for a suspension of what they say is a high risk women's operation thanks to a campaign spearheaded by a journalist from our newspaper group.
They have also been called like “skewering women with kebab sticks,” by a surgeon at a conference who said he was “frightened” of using two types of mesh implant.
Mums who have suffered serious life changing pelvic floor injuries and long term chronic pain as a result of what is called a minor procedure to treat problems often caused by childbirth, got together thanks to support group Sling The Mesh launched by Kath Sansom in June 2015.
It has been called the biggest women’s health scandal since the morning sickness drug Thalidomide that left babies born with deformed limbs in the 60s and 70s
Owen Smith MP, shadow Northern Ireland secretary, said: “I am deeply concerned that so many women have experienced profound, life changing complications after mesh surgery.
“Women who have undergone the surgery invariably say they were advised that this was a simple operation, with little accompanying risk. But for too many, mesh implants have been the cause of chronic and debilitating pain. This issue must be more widely known and discussed.
“We need answers about the proportion of women adversely affected by vaginal mesh and the safety of the products concerned.
“I believe there is a strong case for suspending the use of this mesh, to treat stress incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse until those answers have been provided.’
Joining him is retired surgeon John Osborne, who predicted a disaster with meshes well over a decade ago, England’s top mesh removal surgeon Suzy Elneil and Sling the Mesh campaigner Kath Sansom, whose support group has over 2,200 members.
Miss Elneil, who has women travelling from Australia, China, the Middle East, North Africa as well as from all over the UK and Ireland to get their mesh removed, said when she saw the procedure for the first time: “There is no doubt that we felt as if one was watching a car crash in slow motion taking place in the pelvis.
“It was blind in nature, and involved inserting a piece of polypropylene or plastic using sharp large needles into a rather complex anatomical space.
“We suspected there would be many complications in the future,” she said.
Retired surgeon Mr Osborne said he predicted the mesh disaster, having seen problems of a trial sling, made of gauze, written about in 1968.
“At the time, it was hailed a big success,” he said. “But in reality, in clinic, we only saw the long-term suffering.”
When the TVT mesh slings, still used today, were launched around 1996, he said: “It rang alarm bells. I was anxious about history repeating itself. When I bought copies of these records to meetings in the 90’s and 2000’s, the reply was that the mesh was different and we need not worry about long term complications.”
More than 100,000 mesh tape implant surgeries have been carried out in the UK in the last decade.
Kath Sansom, founded the Sling the Mesh campaign after suffering debilitating pain following the TVT procedure which she had inserted and removed on the NHS. Kath has worked tirelessly for the past two years to bring awareness of the dangers of mesh implants and provide women with information about alternative methods to treat stress incontinence and prolapse.
Kath said: “I now have more than 2,200 members of Sling The Mesh. All of us who are suffering were told it was a simple 20 minute fix. What none of us were told were the devastating complications. There are women who now struggle to walk, are in constant pain, suffer infections, loss of sex life or worse mesh shrinking and cutting into bladders, bowels or slicing through vaginal walls.
“When it goes wrong it is catastrophic and even if women have the mesh removed, it is such major surgery, that the women never go back to what they once were. The mesh fixes problems of incontinence or prolapse but in its path can leave a trail of disaster that is much bigger.”
Sling The Mesh has launched a group action with London firm Wedlake and Bell with QC Elizabeth Ann Gumbel
Women concerned about their symptoms can get support and advice from the patient group Facebook page ‘Sling the Mesh’ or on Twitter @meshcampaign or https://slingthemesh.wordpress.com.