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We Trust the Medical Profession to Get It Right, But the TVT Mesh Procedure Leaves Some Women Maimed for Life

10/06/2015 17:31 | Updated 10 June 2016

Life was going great.

I had loads of hobbies I loved - high board diving, boxing, swimming, mountain biking, a small circle of good friends and a list of amazing gigs lined up on my calendar.

And then I decided to have an operation to fix a problem that had been kicking at my heels since having my second daughter - a gorgeous bundle of 9lb 11oz massiveness.

Now 13 years old, I adored her from the minute I saw her squished up baby face, but it became a standard family joke that, thank God I loved her as much as I did, because she left me with what many women have after natural childbirth - mild urinary incontinence.

A fit of coughing, a sneeze, laughing (which I do a lot of), caused the problem to reveal itself.
Trampolining was out. Unless I used what my kids called 'Mum's trampoline accessory.'

I laughed at it but in truth these things get to you and I just wished it would go away.

Yes I did those Kegel exercises. I even bought a thing that looked like it came straight out the Ann Summers catalogue but was in fact a pelvic floor trainer. But nothing it seemed would make the problem go away. So I put up with it. Until I learnt about an operation called the TVT mesh sling that could fix the problem.

It seemed so perfect. A 20 minute, minimally invasive, low risk, day case operation the literature told me. A week off work at worst and back to high impact exercising within a month. What could possibly go wrong?

Turns out a whole heap of stuff can go wrong and when you go into theatre it is a little like playing Russian Roulette.

Some women come out, as two of my friends did - punching the air for joy that at last they can trampoline again with the kids and do all the things they want to do and not worry anymore.

Equally you could come out as I did, feeling like a physical wreck, wishing I could turn back time, not have the operation and have my life back as I knew it.

Because trust me - mild incontinence is nothing compared to crippling leg pains, feeling like you are being cut by cheese wire inside your body, radiating nerve pain so bad that some days you are exhausted by tea time and need to climb into bed.

Burning in areas I don't even want to type and pain within my groin, lower abdomen and legs that feel like I have cut glass inside me.

At first I thought the sensations were settling in pains - but by week four when I should have been back to full health but in reality pain as getting worse, the alarm bells rang.

So I googled TVT operations gone wrong. And that is when my jaw dropped. Page after page of forums and support groups, women around the world suffering and crying out for help.
Stories of women in wheelchairs, tape which had cut into women's nerves or through their urethra, women left virtually housebound. Others with pain so bad they had given up great jobs, marriages broken down.

Then I read about a pair of Scottish women who with the help of journalist Marion Scott from the Daily Record had campaigned tirelessly to get the operation suspended in Scotland in June 2014.

I learnt that mesh products were de-registered in Australia and there were 100,000 lawsuits against the operation in America.

I sat at my computer and cried. How could I have been so stupid? Why didn't I Google this before the operation? I'm a journalist for God's sake. How on earth have I got myself into this mess?

The truth is we trust the medical profession to get it right.

The high risks were not explained so I skipped merrily into an operation that has left me unable to do any of the hobbies I love.

In many ways I feel lucky - some women are maimed for life. I stand a chance.

I found a blog from a woman in Oxford who I contacted that day. She set me on the path of getting a GP referral to a surgeon called Natalia Price, one of only two surgeons in England who can successfully remove the mesh tape when the operation goes wrong.

I am due for corrective surgery at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford in September. In the meantime nerve blockers dull the pain but it never goes away. Every day it is a little reminder of an operation that I wish I had never had.

The government's watchdog body, the MHRA says it has a low 1-3% chance of complications - but that is because nobody has heard of the MHRA reporting system.

In 2010, for example, 603 TVT meshes were removed by NHS England following complications but only 15 of those were reported - making the low risk rate a false reflection of the true scale of the problem.

It is why I launched my Sling The Mesh campaign. To raise awareness of this operation in a bid to get it suspended or at the very least make women aware of what they could be letting themselves in for. I do not want any other woman to suffer like I and thousands of others have done.