I commend Emma Hardy for securing this vital debate.
I knew nothing about surgical mesh until I was elected in 2015. Since then, women who have written to me or sat opposite me in my surgery have introduced me to their experience: a world of untold suffering, misery, distress and anxiety, which could and should have been avoided. I can add little to the debate other than to describe the experience of ladies in west Cornwall. A constituent in Helston writes:
“Before mesh, I was a vibrant and active woman, positively contributing to my community and society. Mesh has ruined my life with devastating life-altering consequences. Life is now marked by overwhelming daily challenges to my physical, psychological, social, occupational, and financial health and wellbeing. I am unable to work which adds to the financial stress. I am primarily housebound and not able to participate in the lives of family and friends, which I find most heartbreaking. I have three beautiful granddaughters…who live in…Germany. It has been a year since I have been able to visit and look into their curiously beautiful eyes.
I have a Masters Degree in Psychology which has helped me to cope with the devastating life-altering limitations and overwhelming daily challenges of living with significant mesh complications. The pain, discouragement, depression and anxiety is overwhelming every day, and excruciating on others, which is why I have also sought the support of occupational therapists, health psychologists and mental health professionals.”
Another constituent of mine states that the Food and Drug Administration in the USA has issued strict guidelines for mesh use and that in the USA a warning is given to patients about the potential dangers. She had a mesh implant to correct a pelvic prolapse and was told by her doctor that her quality of life would be significantly better, but it has not been. Her retirement has been ruined. She used to walk miles every day with her dogs but now struggles to walk due to pain and feels she might have to go into a wheelchair, as even the shortest walk around the house causes excruciating pain.
More recently, a lady came to see me in my surgery and talked about her experience. She had undergone an operation where a surgical mesh was used. After complications, she underwent a second procedure, during which the mesh was accidentally compromised, and she now suffers recurrent uterine prolapse. The surgeon has written to her, explaining the damage caused during the surgery, and has stressed the need for urgent further intervention, but she has been told that she cannot have surgery until May 2018. Until my intervention, she did not expect to hear back from the hospital until December at the earliest.
Further stories have emerged, including that of a constituent whose mesh eroded through her bladder and vagina. The mesh had been inserted in 2008 for stress urinary incontinence. At the time her complications emerged, there were only two surgeons in England who specialised in removing such mesh. One was in Oxford and one in London, both of which are a long way from west Cornwall.
Finally, another constituent of mine had transobturator tape, or TVTO, inserted five years ago to treat stress urinary incontinence. The device immediately caused her pelvic pain. Within six months, she suffered complete saddle anaesthesia with associated bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction. The mesh was removed after two years but my constituent’s chronic pain continues, due to nerve damage.
For those ladies, little can be done to put right years of discomfort, distress and indignity. What they want is for the Department of Health to allow the use of mesh only in the most serious of cases, where no other option is available. A husband of a patient whose suffering continues following her surgical mesh implant writes:
“Our ultimate desire and goal is to see a complete ban on surgical mesh procedures so other women need not suffer the same appalling life-altering complications.”
I pay tribute to my constituents who have lived with this harm and who are willing to face up to the indignity of talking about their experiences, so that others do not suffer a repeat.