‘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
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 with her son