Spalding grandparents are campaigning for a controversial NHS ‘op’ to be axed because they say it is wrecking people’s lives.
Steph Williams (61) expected to have a hysterectomy, surgical removal of her uterus (womb).
But when Steph was admitted a surgeon recommended an alternative procedure she’d never heard of – a Laparoscopic Sacrohysteropexy – which involves leaving the uterus in place and supporting it with an artificial mesh implant.
The op has left the once active Steph in constant agony, unable to scoop up her grandchildren in her arms or even carry two cups of tea at one time.
“I feel like I have got barbed wire inside my stomach,” said Steph. “When I get up it’s just painful, it’s painful if I sit too long.”
It’s also too painful for Steph to be hugged and she sleeps with the aid of Night Nurse.
Steph and her district councillor husband, Pete, have been to Westminster with the Sling the Mesh Campaign, founded by Cambridgeshire newspaper reporter Kath Sansom, which has more than 4,230 followers on Facebook calling for the operation to be axed.
Courageous Steph has revealed intimate details about her health to warn women – and men – not to have an operation that campaigners say has left some in wheelchairs and others walking with a stick.
Steph suffered in silence for nine months with a prolapsed uterus before going to her GP and had her first hospital appointment in January.
Symptoms include seeing the uterus or cervix pop out of the vagina, a pulling or heavy feeling in the pelvis and feeling like you’re sitting on a ball.
Other organs, such as the bladder or rectum, can prolapse (fall out of place) too and the Williams say men have suffered though having similar operations.
One hospital explains the procedure used in Steph’s case as “supporting the uterus using a permanent artificial mesh material”.
Punchbowl pub landlord Pete (63) says the mesh was attached to Steph’s hip bones but one side came away.
“Every time she coughs or laughs or sneezes it doubles her up with pain,” said Pete.
Steph said: “I went in for a hysterectomy in June and an hour before the operation the surgeon came round and said ‘we are going to try the (whatever the long name is for that operation)’. I had waited five months just to get the operation date and I didn’t have time to research it in any way so I agreed to have it done.
“It wasn’t explained. Even when I came round I thought I’d had a partial hysterectomy.”
Steph came away from hospital with a carrier bag full of leaflets “and in it was an explanation of the operation”.
The couple paid privately to see one of two top experts in the country to ask about having the mesh, something that could pose even more risks to Steph’s health.
The reversal operation, together with a hysterectomy, will cost £9,000. Steph expects to wait months with ever worsening pain because the cost is so high and it will have to be done on the NHS.
Pete believes mesh procedures save NHS thousands compared to the cost of hysterectomies, but says they are wrecking people’s health and destroying couples’ sex lives.
Kath Sansom told us: “The mesh operations are given as they are a quicker, cheaper fix to traditional natural tissue repairs.
“Lots of women are told they are not having mesh they are having a tape so don’t realise they are suffering from problems on this issue. It is a tape which is made of mesh.
“Steph was not given proper fully informed consent of what operation was being given to her nor of the risks associated with the plastic mesh implant. It can shrink, twist or degrade and cause mayhem.
“I am glad Pete and Steph found Sling The Mesh as it means they know they are not alone as that is how all women affected are made to feel – like they are some kind of mystery patient – but it is sad and wrong that they had to even find the group in the first place. I hope Steph gets her referral soon to a mesh removal specialist to hopefully re-build her previously healthy life.”
• Health minister Jackie Doyle-Price rejected MPs’ calls for an inquiry into vaginal mesh implants, but Scottish Conservative Paul Masterton spoke of “women who have lost their careers, their husbands, their homes, their dignity and their lives, who are forced to spend day after day and night after night in agony”.