I would rather pee my pants

Photo: Newcastle Herald
Surgical mesh is a medical device, first developed in the early 1990s

Incontinence is no laughing matter but then again neither is death at 42 from complications from pelvic mesh used to “fix” the incontinence. Women worldwide have been negatively affected by mesh implants going terribly wrong.

“I just wish I had never, ever had it done. I would rather have coped with that very minor problem of stress incontinence than this. If I’d known even one of the possible risks of the surgery, there is no way I would have had it done. I’m furious I was never told this could happen.”


It is the Facebook post on October 29 that shocked women around the world, pelvic mesh campaigner Christina Lynn Brajcic in a hospital bed saying: “This is insane. To almost be on your death bed at only 42 because of mesh. It’s not right.”

One month later, the outspoken Canadian and mother of two was dead.

[…] She was 42 years old and leaves behind two very young sons and a husband. It was a Johnson & Johnson stress incontinence midurethral sling that destroyed her life and finally took it forever.

“Women who are permanently injured by these devices do not consider them to be the gold standard. How can they be when the risks can be so catastrophic?”

Danny Vadasz, of Australian consumer health group Health Issues Centre, said there were “ample reasons” to support a total ban on all pelvic mesh devices. He was scathing of health systems that accepted permanent and incapacitating injuries to a minority of women because the devices helped treat some women’s incontinence.

Incontinence is not a life-threatening problem. It is certainly not worth the level of risk and the possibly terminal risks of the product.

[…] “How many deaths before the regulators and other health bodies are shamed into doing their jobs?” Vadasz asked.

Brajcic was implanted with a mesh midurethral sling in 2013 for incontinence after the birth of her youngest son.

Brajcic experienced immediate severe pain after the 2013 surgery that only worsened with time. […] The formerly vibrant and active interior designer had the mesh removed after searching for surgeons who would do the risky procedure, but spent much of the past four years confined to a wheelchair and on constant antibiotics, painkillers and anti-nausea medications.

Her death prompted an outpouring of grief from mesh-injured women around the world.

“Everyone in the mesh world knew her,” Chisholm said. “No-one can believe she’s gone. She helped all of us and now she’s dead. It’s just so shocking. She was so unwell but now it’s happened. It’s really happened.”

Sydney mesh campaigner Gai Thompson, who had a different Johnson & Johnson transvaginal mesh device in 2008 that Australian surgeons have told her cannot be removed, said Brajcic “drew attention to the cause because she wanted to get this stuff banned”.

“Doctors talk about the thousands of women who’ve had mesh without complaint but they don’t talk about the women who are left with this crap in them that destroys their lives, and that’s what people don’t understand,” Thompson said.

In a complaint to the TGA in 2011, Thompson said she was “living a nightmare”, with constant urinary tract infections leaving her resistant to some antibiotics, chronic and severe pelvic pain, chronic bowel problems, incontinence and multiple areas where the mesh had eroded into her vagina. She was unable to have sex with her husband, unable to work and the couple had been forced to sell their home.

When you read about those kinds of possible side effects all of a sudden using incontinence pads don’t look so bad.

On November 28, the TGA moved on a final eight transvaginal prolapse mesh devices and certain incontinence slings on the Australian market, ordering their cancellation or that they not be implanted via the vagina. New Zealand advocates have been urged to follow suit.

It followed a review that found the risks outweighed the benefits of the prolapse devices and there was a lack of adequate scientific evidence backing the incontinence slings. Since 2013, the TGA has cancelled 43 mesh devices and their multiple variants.

In October, the TGA moved to upgrade the classification of all implantable pelvic mesh devices to high risk.

– Sydney Morning Herald

New Zealand is yet to take any steps to ban surgical mesh. 

In one month, it will be illegal to use surgical mesh products to treat pelvic organ prolapse in Australia. In New Zealand, the Labour-led Government – which supported stricter mesh regulations during its opposition years – have yet to offer any real solutions to the problem.

Let’s hope our government cares as much about Kiwi women as it does about fish affected by plastic microbeads. If mesh remains as a medical option it is only fair that New Zealand women be well informed about all the risks. Women not being made aware of all the risks by medical professionals I think is the most worrying part of the whole debacle.

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