A mum is planning on suing the hospital that fitted her with a surgical mesh – because it left her unable to work and suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
Theresa Bartram, 51, suffered so badly after having a trans-vaginal tape put in to lift her prolapsed bladder that she has been left with repeated infections, fibromyalgia and PTSD – usually seen in ex-servicemen.
The mum-of-one from Peacehaven, East Sussex, had been suffering from stress incontinence after having a baby when she had the Gynecare TVT sling fitted in 2007.
But the former health worker was forced to have it removed in 2015 after the device cut through her vaginal wall – slicing into her partner’s penis while they had sex.
Theresa, who is now barely able to walk, said: “I had the sling put in because I had a mild prolapse while giving birth standing up, and was told that it was the ‘gold standard’ for women like me.
“The doctor said the risks were minimal, it was fantastic, and there was only a one per cent chance of infection – I had no idea at all that it could cut through me.
“In 2010, it cut my partner during sex because it had perforated my vaginal walls after three years.
“I blew up – I was hugely swollen and looked eight months pregnant – so I went to A&E, but they said I was fine and to go home.
“Eventually it was found that they’d looked at someone else’s blood results and I had liver and pancreas problems, because my body was reacting so violently to the mesh.
“I felt so sick, I kept falling asleep in conversations and on the phone and was sleeping for 18 hours a day.
“I had swollen up all over and I spent five-and-a-half years going from doctor to doctor and they all told me I wanted to be ill and it was all in my head – they tried to give me anti-psychotic medication.
“Eventually in summer 2015, I was able to see a gynecologist, who admitted that the mesh was cutting through my vaginal wall.
“It smelt like I had leg ulcers and I didn’t know what was going on, it was only later that the penny dropped with the doctors that it was the mesh.
“I had been screaming it from the rooftops and no one listened – even my own family.”
Theresa finally had the sling removed at Eastbourne District General Hospital in November 2015, in a three-hour ‘very violent surgery’.
She says it took five months for the wound to heal, and she has even developed an allergy to five antibiotics since the mesh’s removal, meaning she struggles with any infection.
Theresa added: “I can’t work because of all the pain I’m in – I have a constant low level electrical buzz all over my body, I’m sore all over, with shooting pains in both ankles and my left elbow.
“Because my pelvic floor has been cut through, holding my body up is a struggle and I’m constantly incontinent.
“I’ve had sepsis even after the mesh was removed, which you don’t expect, and still now I’m having treatment for PTSD – which is difficult, because I’m still living in this trauma.”
Theresa, whose partner left her two months after the penis-slicing incident, is now hoping to take legal action against the hospital and the tape manufacturers, Johnson & Johnson.
In September, a 51-year-old woman in the US was awarded £42.5 million by the pharmaceuticals company.
Her case revealed that the implant was launched without a clinical trial, and then marketed for five years despite the company discovering it had a higher failure rate than two similar devices.
Theresa wants to instruct a solicitor, but is unable to access legal aid and is currently on benefits.
She said: “I’m going to get legal advice, but I have no money.”
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust refused to comment on Theresa’s individual case.
A spokesperson said: “Ms Bartram’s consultant is no longer at BSUH.
“NICE issued new guidance on the use of vaginally inserted mesh for vaginal wall prolapse in December 2017.
“This was followed by a statement from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the British Society of Urogynaecology.
“The main change is that vaginal mesh is no longer being inserted at the Trust for vaginal wall prolapse.
“Since March 2016, we conducted eight vaginal wall prolapse treatments, for which one patient had recurrent prolapse and no patient had pain, infection or exposure. No mesh required removal.
“The guidelines do not apply to abdominally-inserted mesh, which has a much lower complication rate.
“The NICE guidelines also don’t apply to tapes used for urinary stress incontinence.
“The new National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guideline on the management of urinary incontinence in women is due for release in March 2018.
“Mid-urethral tape slings remain the most commonly used surgical procedure for stress incontinence in the United Kingdom.
“Our data shows that our rate of mid-urethral tape slings removal for complications is around 2.4 per cent.
“Without being able to comment directly on Ms Bartram’s circumstances, we can’t really say much beyond offering the assurance that we are following the latest guidelines, all patients are followed up after prolapse surgery and assessed and if there are any patients who are not satisfied with the care provided, they can request a follow up assessment.”