Call for mesh ‘life sen­tence’ apol­ogy

The Press - - Front Page - Cate Broughton

Marie Knibb had two surg­eries to im­plant mesh. She then needed 15 more to take it out.

The 57-year-old Can­ter­bury mother and grand­mother lives with ag­o­nis­ing pain in her pelvic area and right leg, blad­der fail­ure, nerve dam­age, in­som­nia, de­pres­sion and Post Trau­matic Stress Dis­or­der (PTSD).

Knibb and other New Zealan­ders who suf­fered from mesh botch-ups are call­ing on the Gov­ern­ment to fol­low Aus­tralia’s lead and apol­o­gise.

On Wed­nes­day, Aus­tralia’s Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt re­sponded to a Se­nate in­quiry into vagi­nal mesh ac­cept­ing, in prin­ci­ple, 11 of 12 rec­om­men­da­tions to im­prove safe­guards against mesh-re­lated harm. ‘‘On be­half of the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment, I say sorry to all of those women with the his­toric agony and pain that has come from mesh im­plan­ta­tion which have led to hor­rific out­comes,’’ he said.

In an open let­ter to Act­ing As­so­ciate Min­is­ter for Health James Shaw, sup­port group Mesh Down Un­der said an apol­ogy would make ‘‘a mas­sive dif­fer­ence to all those con­cerned’’.

A Bri­tish Med­i­cal Jour­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion this week re­vealed vagi­nal mesh de­vices were ‘‘ag­gres­sively hus­tled’’ by man­u­fac­tur­ers de­spite ‘‘flimsy’’ ev­i­dence of safety, sur­geons were in­ad­e­quately trained and gov­ern­ments failed to track com­pli­ca­tion rates.

Shaw said a na­tion­wide road­show by the Min­istry of Health was planned ‘‘to hear from sur­vivors and their ex­pe­ri­ences’’.

‘‘. . . I ex­pect to get ad­vice back about what would be the most mean­ing­ful and sin­cere way for the gov­ern­ment to apol­o­gise.’’

Af­ter a decade of suf­fer­ing mesh-re­lated in­juries Knibb wants New Zealand sur­geons and the Gov­ern­ment to lis­ten and learn.

‘‘Mesh has to stop be­ing used. Sur­geons need to be mon­i­tored and given fur­ther teach­ing and need to give their pa­tients other op­tions.’’

Five months af­ter surgery in May, Knibb’s blad­der has not healed. Ev­ery visit to the toi­let is ex­cru­ci­at­ing and leaves her nauseous. A weak­ened right leg from nerve dam­age has made

walk­ing dif­fi­cult and she re­cently bought a mo­torised scooter.

Knibb’s mesh night­mare started in 2008 when she sought help for a mi­nor pro­lapsed bowel.

A gy­nae­col­o­gist told her he could do a ‘‘sim­ple’’ mesh pro­ce­dure and com­pli­ca­tions were very rare.

Within six weeks she de­vel­oped a con­stant aching pain in her but­tock and burn­ing in the groin but this was at­trib­uted to a back in­jury. Her sur­geon de­nied the pain was from mesh.

In 2010 the same sur­geon di­ag­nosed a blad­der pro­lapse and im­planted two more mesh de­vices.

Fol­low­ing this pro­ce­dure she de­vel­oped ter­ri­ble pain while uri­nat­ing. The im­plant­ing sur­geon checked for mesh ero­sion and found none.

He sug­gested a hys­terec­tomy and this went ahead but failed to im­prove the symp­toms.

‘‘Two years of hell later’’ she went to an­other urol­o­gist who found mesh had eroded into her blad­der. ‘‘It felt like I had barbed wire in me, cut­ting into me.’’

In 2012 and 2013, three ma­jor op­er­a­tions went ahead to re­move all of the mesh. But the pain wors­ened and by Jan­uary 2015 Knibb de­vel­oped de­pres­sion.

‘‘I was al­most sui­ci­dal think­ing . . . is this the way I’m go­ing to be for the rest of my life?

In 2016, Knibb was forced to quit her job as an aca­demic ad­min­is­tra­tor. She sought a sec­ond opin­ion with a sur­geon in Welling­ton who found fur­ther mesh ero­sion in her blad­der.

Fur­ther surg­eries went ahead to re­move more mesh.

But sur­geons were un­able to re­move all of it with­out risk­ing ma­jor, life-threat­en­ing com­pli­ca­tions, Knibb said.

‘‘You just can’t ever be mesh­free, it’s a life sen­tence. I don’t be­lieve there is a sur­geon in New Zealand who can guar­an­tee they can re­move it all suc­cess­fully.’’

DAVID WALKER/STUFF

Marie Knibb has had mul­ti­ple surg­eries with mesh and ter­ri­ble com­pli­ca­tions.

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