Vaginal mesh led to 'excruciating pain'

By Marie-Louise Connolly & Catherine Smyth
BBC News NI Health Unit

  • Published
Susan McLarnon
Image caption,
Susan McLarnon said she was never told about the potential problems

Susan McLarnon arrives on crutches to tell her story.

Pain is etched across her face, her body is stiff as she slowly eases herself into a seat. The Belfast woman appears to be in agony and a lot older than her years.

"I have come out partially disabled. I went in able bodied and I have come out in crutches. I am mentally wrecked; I don't know what is going to happen down the line," she said.

"I don't know what the diagnosis is, I don't know what the prognosis is, but I do know that if the pain keeps continuing on like this I am going to end up in a wheelchair."

After a routine smear test, Susan was advised that she had a prolapse. This explained why she leaked urine every day.

A vaginal prolapse is a condition in which structures, such as the uterus, rectum, bladder, urethra, small bowel or the vagina, itself may begin to prolapse, or fall out of their normal positions.

Susan says she dreaded going out shopping and seeking the nearest public toilet when out and about became routine.

"Everyday life was impossible. At times standing became unbearable, running and playing with my daughter impossible," she said

According to Susan, while a consultant advised having an implant, she was never informed of the potential problems.

Image caption,
The mesh is made of polypropolene which is a type of plastic - surgeons routinely use it in hernia repair, for example

"I was never advised, for instance, that it was actual mesh. I wasn't given any leaflets to say of the side effects or anything like that.

"I did ask questions, I did ask about the side effects and was there anything I needed to worry about and I was told there wasn't."

Susan's problems emerged almost immediately after the procedure.

In fact she left hospital in tremendous pain and said during the past 12 months she has been passed round several specialists. She said part of the problem is convincing people that there is something wrong.

The 51-year-old said she has been told by specialists not to be frightened of her pain and to try to live and work through it.

As a result she is taking various medications that make her physically sick.

"The pain changes day to day. It (the mesh) can cut into your groin where it is like barbed wire gripping you. I have had pain right down my legs. My hip often gives way when I am walking," she said

Susan said she wants the mesh removed.

Sitting close by is 58-year-old Yvonne McIntosh.

She had vaginal mesh inserted four years ago to try and fix incontinence. While it was a success at the start, she said it now feels like it is starting to unravel inside her body.

Image caption,
Yvonne McIntosh is seeking help to have the mesh removed

"I have been having excruciating pain. I have felt something within me is coming out and would have to go into the bathroom to push it up," she said.

"My husband could also feel it when we were being intimate - he said he could feel something sharp."

A mother of three, Yvonne said it feels like it is making its way out of her body and coming through her groin. Even while talking to me she is shifting in her seat in constant discomfort.

"Every day I am in absolute agony because this is an alien thing that I know is inside me. It feels sharp and is sticking into me when I walk.

"It's not meant to be there - I know there is something wrong."

Yvonne also is seeking help to have it removed but, like other women who have spoken to the BBC, her local health trust says it cannot help her and she has been forced to turn to a private doctor in London instead.

"I have told my consultant how bad it is and she says she can't remove it at all. She can snip it but she is not qualified to remove it, that it is not her field. She mentioned that she could send me to a woman in London instead," she said.