Medical bungle: ‘I was torn apart on the inside’
EVERY move she makes Debra Lynch is reminded of the foreign object buried deep inside of her.
She says it has cost her sanity, her independence and possibly her leg.
The Burleigh Waters resident was one of 18,000 Queensland women informed last week that a pelvic mesh may have been implanted during surgery at public hospitals.
The mass notification by Queensland Health comes as the Federal Court ordered pelvic mesh supplier Johnson & Johnson to pay $2.6 million to three women with the faulty mesh implants.
Like the thousands of others, Ms Lynch has until April 9 to register for the ongoing class action against the manufacturer.
Ms Lynch, who has been searching for proof of the implant since her a hysterectomy and bladder repair operation in 1998, said she felt vindicated that she wasn't "losing her mind".
For the past 20 years the mother of six - including two sets of twins - says she has been in agonising pain.
She says she has been diagnosed with multiple auto-immune diseases, namely Scleroderma diffuse variant, causing poor circulation which ultimately claimed her right leg.
Before the procedure was confirmed to her last week, Ms Lynch had fought to prove that the mesh was the cause of her concerns, but ran into dead ends because Queensland Elizabeth II Hospital, where she was treated, said her records had been destroyed.
She wonders if she would have been told if she wasn't chasing the information.
"There are so many other women who may have slipped through the cracks like me."
"I had period where I was in pain for 24 hours a day," she said. "I felt like I was being torn apart on the inside.
"Doctors could find no reason for it. I had my own family thinking it was in my own head.
"It wasn't until I heard about the mesh causing problems that I started asking questions.
"I wanted proof of what they put in me but I was told again and again that my records had been destroyed - until I heard back this week."
While the links between auto-immune disease and the implants are still being researched, pelvic mesh patients have a higher than average rate of diseases, and often don't have a family history.
"I wonder how many other women may not know that this is the cause of their pain," Ms Lynch said.
"This is garbage falling apart inside of you. My life has become one medical appointment after another."
Queensland Health said it had taken a deliberate, proactive approach to ensure women receiving correspondence regarding a class action in the Federal Court had received a separate letter with clinical information relevant to them.
"18,000 Queensland women who may have had pelvic mesh implanted in our facilities have been contacted by Queensland Health via registered mail," the spokesman said.
"These women have been advised of the possible complications of pelvic mesh, where assessment and treatment can be sought, and how to access their medical records if required."
The spokesman said women had experienced a range of outcomes after treatment using transvaginal mesh.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
MORE women than ever before are seeking help from the Gold Coast's pelvic mesh support group after thousands were told they had the implants.
Angela Wrampling-Spaniak, from the Gold Coast and Surrounds Pelvic Mesh Support Group, said she was receiving inquiries from women who had no idea they had been implanted with the device until they received a letter for Queensland Health.
"Some women are shocked because there are different terms used, tape, mesh, sling - it is all the same thing," Ms Wrampling-Spaniak said.
"Some have known, others are overwhelmed that there is a reason why they have been feeling this way for years. It is something they can go seek treatment for now. There are thousands out there who have lost reproductive organs, their sex lives and health. "
In 2018 the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) banned pelvic mesh products being used for some issues.
But Ms Wrampling-Spaniak wants them banned completely.
In 2019, Queensland Health set up the $3.14 million Pelvic Mesh Service dedicated to treating, supporting women who have experienced complications.