Joe’s wife, Sharon (not her real name), suffered with pelvic organ prolapse (POP) after she had a hysterectomy and her doctor advised that she have a transvaginal mesh sling. Joe says the mesh treated Sharon’s POP but he remembers that soon after surgery she had constant infections, similar to yeast infections. And she was in a lot of pain.
“The doctor kept saying the pain was coming from the anchor sites, meaning where the mesh was placed,” Joe says, “and these anchor sites may be indicating some kind of pull from the bone. At any rate the pain continued. And she kept having pain during intercourse so sex has become non-existent.
“I understand her situation - it is really hard to get excited about having sex when you know it is going to hurt. While I understand, it makes it very difficult to continue a long-term relationship - our marriage - and not have resentment issues. I understand conceptually her position but the transvaginal mesh maker and the doctor who implanted it aren’t lying in bed with me saying ‘No Sex Tonight.’ So I feel resentment toward the doctors, the transvaginal mesh manufacturers and even my spouse. And the problem keeps escalating. The longer this problem goes on, meaning no sex, the further apart we become.
I took my marriage vows seriously. While I don’t believe in extra-marital sex, or in divorce, it is very difficult not to think about either or both. It has crossed my mind to pay for sex on many occasions. I know you can visit websites to find a woman but I think it is morally wrong and I think about what it would do to my wife. I just can’t do that to her.”
Joe says they sometimes try to have sex but he will stop if he thinks he is hurting his wife. “I am a good Catholic boy, I can’t continue by myself,” he says, jokingly. And even if his wife urges him to continue, he can’t. “I will lose my erection because I am so worried about her. You have to be excited and interested to maintain an erection, but if you are worried and upset, things don’t work out so well.”
Naturally Joe and Sharon have talked about the possibility of having the mesh removed but that is another problem. “I don’t honestly know if she has found a doctor to remove this stuff. It is very difficult for us; we don’t have the money for my wife to take time off work to have reconstructive surgery,” says Joe. Add to that, finding a doctor to remove the mesh is difficult and time-consuming. Joe is on disability so they are living solely on Sharon’s income.
Sharon took one month off work when she had the mesh implanted. Her job involved lifting heavy files and she couldn’t lift more than five pounds for several weeks after surgery. If those problems aren’t enough, the mesh has irritated Sharon so much she now suffers from incontinence and bowel leakage.
Joe sums it up: “In exchange for the POP she has pain and no sex. I would say it isn’t a good exchange. Now her bladder and partial bowel are no longer protruding outside of her vagina but I think she was better off without the transvaginal mesh. Unfortunately, she relied on her doctor to tell her the mesh would fix her.”
Transvaginal mesh loss of consortium lawsuit
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In these cases, loss of consortium means that transvaginal mesh has limited or prevented couples from having sexual intimacy. It also means a woman has limited ability to provide household help and care for her family.
Johnson & Johnson was sued for loss of consortium in 2010; the woman received $5 million in damages and her husband was awarded $500,000 because he claimed the transvaginal mesh had ruined their love life. Unfortunately in this case, the mesh had eroded through and into the woman’s vagina and so intertwined with her organs that removal will be impossible. And good sex will be impossible.