Sling the mesh campaign

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Two Dunoon residents, along with Argyll and Bute MP Brendan O’Hara, attended a parliamentary lobby in London on Tuesday July 18 to lend support to the campaign to suspend pelvic mesh implants - which have been described as a ‘car crash in the pelvis’ for many women who have had the procedure.

Women across the UK have had life-changing pelvic floor injuries and suffer long term chronic pain from this ‘minor procedure’.
Dunoon’s Nancy Honeyball, now in her late forties, is one of those who has had the surgery, with disastrous results, and is now hoping to have it reversed. Nancy said: “The operation has been done on the NHS in local hospitals since 1997 so there will definitely be other local women suffering like me. But we are all ignored when we say we are in pain so we go away and suffer in silence.”


Nancy had the mesh fitted to ‘cure’ stress urinary incontinence in November 2010, over a year after the Scottish Health Service received warnings about complications with its use and after Health Secretary Alex Neil ordered NHS officials to rewrite consent forms to include information about problems associated with mesh. He said every woman should be given ‘all the information they need to make informed choices’.


More than 100,000 mesh tape implant surgeries have been carried out in the UK in the last decade.


Nancy is campaigning to bring more awareness to women about the mesh, sling or tape as its also known, and the complications that could arise afterwards. She has nothing but praise for her local Church St surgery, saying that it has offered ‘fantastic  support’ to her.


Nancy’s husband William said: “My wife was given this surgery in November 2010 without being properly and fully informed of the risks, or even the procedure. She signed the consent form on the morning of the operation, a casual signature that has resulted in her suffering regularly from sudden crippling pain, often without warning. She could be out with the dog on the seafront and I’d get a call to go and collect her because she couldn’t walk due to shooting pains from her feet to her thighs. At night-time she’d suffer from restless legs, when they twitch all by themselves.”


William spoke of his ‘constant worry’ about how unwell his wife is and how it has affected their lives and their children’s lives. He has called the last few years ‘traumatic’ for the family, adding that he was ‘delighted’ that Alex Neil, in April this year,  requested the suspension of the use of mesh for prolapse and stress urinaray incontinence in the Scottish health service. He said: “It doesn’t help those maimed by mesh already, but it does prevent those in Scotland being maimed and suffering as all these other ladies and their families are.


“We hope that Parliament takes notice of the will of these people and the significant impact mesh has had and continues to have on peoples’ lives, and will recommend that the use of mesh is suspended immediately.”


Brendan O’Hara MP told the Standard: “I was absolutely delighted that Nancy and William could make it to London.  Nancy’s story has to be heard and she speaks for hundreds of others across Scotland whose lives have been devastated by complications following mesh implants.  The packed meeting at Westminster gave women from across the UK who have been affected by mesh, their families and medical professionals the opportunity to tell MPs their stories.  Listening to their stories was a harrowing experience and one that I will not forget.  
“I have promised, along with colleagues from across the House of Commons, to set up an all-party group to examine the issues further and support people affected by this issue.”


Addressing the meeting was Owen Smith, MP for Pontypridd and shadow Northern Ireland secretary, who has been active in the campaign since it was brought to his attention by a constituent. He was joined by retired leading obstetrician and gynaecologist John Osborne, who predicted a disaster with meshes well over a decade ago, England’s top mesh removal surgeon Miss Suzy Elneil and Sling the Mesh campaigner Kath Sansom, whose support group has over 2,200 members.


Owen Smith MP said: “I am deeply concerned that so many women have experienced profound, life changing complications after mesh surgery. Women who have undergone the surgery invariably say they were advised that this was a simple operation, with little accompanying risk. But for too many, mesh implants have been the cause of chronic and debilitating pain. This issue must be more widely known and discussed.”


London surgeon Suzy Elneil, who has women travelling from Australia, China, the Middle East, North Africa as well as from all over the UK and Ireland to get their mesh removed, said when she saw the procedure for the first time: “There is no doubt that we felt as if one was watching a car crash in slow motion taking place in the pelvis.
“We suspected there would be many complications in the future,” she said.


Kath Samson added: “When it goes wrong it is catastrophic and even if women have the mesh removed, it is such major surgery, that the women never go back to what they once were. The mesh fixes problems of incontinence or prolapse but in its path can leave a trail of disaster that is much bigger.”


Speaking after Tuesday’s meeting William and Nancy were very positive about the lobby, saying that it was ‘really very good’.


William said: “More than 20 MPs were at the lobby, who were very supportive, along with just over 100 people who’s lives have been affected.  Owen Smith said it was one of the best parliamentary lobbies that he had attended.”


Women concerned about their symptoms can get support and advice from the patient group Facebook page ‘Scottish Mesh survivors’ or ‘Sling the Mesh’ or on Twitter @meshcampaign or Sling The Mesh wordpress site.


There is a Facebook support page available for partners and families of those affected by Mesh -’Partners and Families of Mesh Victims’.

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