The Sunday Post (Inverness)
Scotland’s other mesh scandal: Hernia patients reveal how their lives have been ruined by surgery
for action to help victims of Scotland’s second mesh scandal are escalating as the devastating toll emerges.
Mesh used to treat prolapse and incontinence has already been exposed as causing devastating injuries to thousands of women around the world, including hundreds in Scotland. But up to 30% of the almost 10,000 hernia mesh patients in Scotland each year may also face complications.
Some patients have told how their hernia surgery has left them crippled with pain and unable to work or walk.
MSP Neil Findlay said Health Secretary Jeane Freeman needs to take charge of the situation, unlike her predecessor Shona Robison, who he says failed to take effective action to halt the use of transvaginal mesh. The Labour MSP warned the government “must get in front of the situation.”
Mr Findlay said: “There are five times the number of hernia mesh patients as transvaginal mesh patients, and if the government does not act now and take a grip of this situation we are facing a major health crisis.
“The risks and dangers of that type of mesh were exposed in Scotland thanks to the bravery of victims willing to speak out. But still it took the government almost six years to act over transvaginal mesh which is now recognised as the worst global health scandal of modern times.
“We cannot have a repeat of that fiasco when so many more lives are affected.”
A 10th of people will develop a hernia, when part of an organ pushes through the muscle or tissue holding it in place, and the most common treatment is for surgeons to push bulging material back into the body and cover it with surgical mesh. Surgeons admit the use of mesh can cause complications but say non-mesh treatments can also be problematic and what is important is that patients are fully informed and properly advised.
Last week, former Chief Petty Officer David Foulkes, 56, told The Post how he had a testicle removed after a hernia operation left him crippled in pain.
He said: “We all need to speak up because doctors are in denial.”
Politicians are calling for hernia mesh to be suspended to fall in line with the suspension of bladder and pelvic organ prolapse mesh that has left hundreds of thousands of women injured around the world. Health Secretary Freeman has warned of her “dismay” over the lack of action by regulators and promised she will act.
But Mr Findlay’s call for a hernia mesh suspension and a safety inquiry, backed by former Health Secretary Alex Neil, will be repeated in Parliament next week as he asks why surgeons are in denial over the risks.
Patients are being forced to use their savings to seek medical attention in England, with surgeons south of the border offering complete removal of devices.
He said: “It is unacceptable that Scottish patients are having to seek help elsewhere. I will be asking Jeane Freeman what she is going to do to ensure patients here are getting the very best treatment available.” Graham Robertson , 52, a former mountaineer and Duke of Edinburgh Award leader has been left in agony by surgery to repair a hernia and is struggling to cope with his ruined health.
Graham, from Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, said: “My life has been destroyed by what I was told was a ‘gold standard’ procedure that was supposedly so simple, I didn’t even need an overnight stay to repair the hernia in my groin. “Within weeks, I was on some of the most powerful painkillers that can be prescribed, and the nightmare has never ended.
“Now I’ve lost my job, I can’t do any of the everyday things I used to take for granted.”
He is the latest man to reveal they are also victims of plastic mesh used by surgeons to treat hernia after thousands of
I was told it was a simple operation but it has simply ruined me
women around the world were revealed as victims of transvaginal mesh used to treat prolapse and bladder problems. Graham used to run his own furniture firm, and reckons years of heavy lifting caused his hernia.
Graham said: “I’ve seen several surgeons in a desperate bid to see if anyone can help me with the agonising pain. But they just keep saying every procedure can have complications, and I’m just one of the ‘unlucky’ ones. Nobody warned me before my operation, and nobody wants to take responsibility.”
He has been warned that further surgery could have further, devastating, side effects. “I had no idea my whole life could be ruined by mesh. I can’t even pick up my one year old grandson and give him a cuddle,” he said. Graham said the pain from the mesh inside his body is like “being strangled from the inside” and he has been so low, he has been suicidal.
He said: “You feel so low and worthless. I’ve had many times when I’ve even considered what’s the point of trying to struggle on with what is left of my life in constant pain? “Then I look at my family and I know I couldn’t do that to them. I’ve been all kinds of antidepressants but they don’t touch how bad I feel. There are thousands struggling in silence.
“I understand that hospitals use it because they think it’s a quicker, cheaper fix. It might save the NHS a few pennies, but when things go wrong, patients’ lives are destroyed. Once you’re mesh injured, it’s impossible to be put back together.”