Call for mesh ‘life sentence’ apology
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.’’
Marie Knibb has had multiple surgeries with mesh and terrible complications.