Wicklow mother of two Lorraine used to be the “go-go” girl bursting with life, as she says herself. That was before she was operated on for a prolapsed vaginal wall and stress urinary incontinence.
Over the last two years, the 49-year-old’s life has dramatically changed. Relying on painkillers and sleeping pills, she has been left with pain, trauma and neglect after a vaginal mesh implant.
Fearing the device inside her body could damage organs, Lorraine lives day to day in hope that the deteriorating mesh can be safely and fully removed.
Her case and hundreds of others have so far fallen on deaf ears with health authorities.
“I can’t walk the dog,” she says.
“I don’t have the strength to do it. I’m fearful of organ and nerve damage or of the mesh migrating to other areas. It is like having a ticking bomb inside you. You don’t know what is going to happen. I could be on the floor, if it cut its way through my body like a cheese wire. The unknown is frightening.”
Lorraine had a vaginal mesh implanted in December 2016. After a couple of weeks, she noticed something wasn’t right. There was pain.
Feeling unwell and uncomfortable after the operation, she went back to her surgeon in January 2017. He told her he couldn’t see any reason for her pain.
“It got progressively worse. I thought I was losing the plot,” says Lorraine. “I went to my GP about the pain in my legs.”
The suffering impacted on her relationship with her family and the family business as Lorraine found she couldn’t get out of bed at times.
“I needed medication for my muscles to relax, with the pains in the legs and my groin,” she says.
And I had problems sleeping and needed tablets. I used to walk 6km a few times a week prior to the operation. After, I could barely move much without having to stop. I can no longer drive a manual car either.
After a number of scans, one consultant confirmed that the mesh itself could be felt under her skin.
“Other women have got sepsis and meningitis when this happens,” she says.
Lorraine says doctors are not putting complaints about mesh implants down on medical files as then it will officially be a problem.
Use of the implants in public procedures have now been paused. But there has been no official audit on the numbers of patients affected in Ireland.
“People are scared to do anything about these operations. But this is a problem worldwide. There has to be an independent review. This has taken over my whole life. We need a pathway [to recovery]. We need them [the health authorities] to admit there is a problem.”
Lorraine is still waiting for a medical solution to remove all of the mesh implant.
“Some injured from the devices have been treated abroad, but have paid their own costs, and have had implants successfully removed,” says Lorraine. “Here, they can only do partial removals and leave plastic in it. They have left frayed pieces that migrate in some cases to organs or the spinal chord.
“Several of us have met [Health Minister] Simon Harris. He made promises. But it was a script. I found out I was one of a number of women he said the same thing to.”