‘THERE HAS NOT BEEN A DAY THAT I’VE NOT BEEN IN PAIN’

Mum tells how im­plant left her in agony and walk­ing with stick

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - AMY COLES Re­porter amy.coles01@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

WHEN mum-of-three Karen Preater be­gan suf­fer­ing with uri­nary in­con­ti­nence after her son was born she was told it was a com­mon prob­lem that was eas­ily fixed.

Doc­tors re­as­sured her an op­er­a­tion to in­sert a vagi­nal mesh im­plant was straight for­ward and would only re­quire a gen­eral anaes­thetic and an overnight stay in hos­pi­tal.

But she awoke from the pro­ce­dure in ag­o­nis­ing pain and un­able to walk – and nearly four years later still re­lies on up to 20 tablets a day to numb the pain she says “never stops”.

The 41-year-old, who walks with a stick thanks to the pain in her hip and left thigh, said: “There has not been a day that I’ve not been in pain.

“It’s every minute of every day. It can get worse but it never stops.

“I feel as old as my gran. I did not ex­pect my life at 41 to be like this.

“I feel like I have just been handed the ‘grow old be­fore your time’ card, and my kids see it as well.”

Karen was given ten­sion-free vagi­nal tape (TVT) – a type of mesh sling used to treat stress in­con­ti­nence by keep­ing the ure­thra in the right po­si­tion.

But the rou­tine op­er­a­tion in­stantly left her in “ex­cru­ci­at­ing” pain and it wasn’t un­til Karen read about other women liv­ing with com­pli­ca­tions from mesh im­plants that she re­alised what was the cause. Talk­ing about the pro­ce­dure, she said: “I was told: ‘You will only be in the hos­pi­tal overnight and you can get back to your kids.’

“So I thought: ‘This is your best op­tion.’ I just be­lieved what they said.

“I came round d and was in a mas­sive amount t of pain. Ini­tially I didn’t think any- thing of it.

“But they were e strug­gling with h what to give me e for the pain. I couldn’t wee at all l and was given a catheter.

“After eight days s in hos­pi­tal I was s given a big bag of f painkillers and left t to get on with it. I was left need­ing g crutches.

“I was led to o be­lieve it was the e best and only y op­tion. I didn’t have a choice and I took the op­tion that has changed my life.” Karen, who lives in Rhyl, has to self-catheterise five to six times a day and takes seven dif­fer­ent med­i­ca­tions for pain and de­pres­sion. The pain is so de­bil­i­tat­ing she was forced to give up her job in sales and take vol­un­tary re­dun­dancy and says it has im­pacted on her re­la­tion­ship with her part­ner. She is now wait­ing to see a spe­ciali ist in Manc ch­ester to see if she can get t the tape r re­moved. She said: “I d don’t like hav­ing that amount of med­i­ca­tion but it’s some­thing I c can’t not h have. “The pro­ce­dure it­self is sav­ing t h em money but in the long t term it’s cost­ing them a w whole lot more.”

Any op­er­a­tion to re­move mesh car­ries lots of risks and can only be done by an ex­pe­ri­enced doc­tor.

The Bri­tish So­ci­ety of Urog­y­nae­col­ogy has com­piled a list of UK hos­pi­tal units with ex­pe­ri­ence in treat­ing mesh com­pli­ca­tions.

Here they can scan to see how much dam­age the mesh is caus­ing and can safely re­move the de­vice, which can be­come em­bed­ded into the flesh.

There are none of these cen­tres in Wales.

Karen says she strug­gled to get re­ferred out of Wales to see a mesh re­moval spe­cial­ist and fears other women are be­ing pre­vented from do­ing the same.

She said: “I do not think that is right. There needs to be spe­cial­ist care in Wales or they need to re­fer us out.

“It’s ma­jor surgery hav­ing it re­moved. I know the risks of hav­ing it re­moved and the kids are at an age where they still need me to do ev­ery­thing for them.

“It’s some­thing I strug­gle to think about with­out get­ting anx­ious over it.”

She added: “If I had known all the risks in­volved in the first place I would have asked for other op­tions.

“Some­times you just don’t want to get out of bed in the morn­ing. But I have kids and I have to.”

Karen Preater

Karen with her son

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