Fran is amongst hundreds of Canadians who have filed a transvaginal mesh (TVM) lawsuit with attorneys in Toronto. Thousands and thousands of women south of the border have already received transvaginal mesh settlements, but thousands more claims are still pending in US courts. For Fran, getting the message out about transvaginal mesh complications is more important than receiving a settlement.
“I was at the point where I would pee my pants if I walked too fast. I was fed up to the point that something had to be done,” says Fran. “My family doctor recommended this surgery; I know he had nothing to gain but he had been told about the mesh by my surgeon, via The College of Physicians - I assumed the device was reputable. And this mesh sounded exactly what I needed. I had a consultation with the surgeon when I was 47 and he determined that I was a good candidate.” (Fran had a total hysterectomy at 36, when the urinary incontinence problems started. Thankfully she has a healthy son.)
Fran had a TVT sling implanted in 2009 and says it was fine for a short time. Because she worked in the health care field for 30 years, Fran knew how important it is to follow doctor’s instructions. “I took a few weeks off work and went back on light duties, meaning no heavy lifting. I didn’t have sex for a few months, and that’s when I figured I could start leading a normal life again. Wrong.
“My problems started about six months later. I started to get spasms in my groin when I become the slightest bit dehydrated. When I try to urinate it burns and I get a pinching sensation, like a spasm. I went back to the surgeon and she couldn’t figure out why this was happening. The next year my urination problems started again: my surgeon thought I had a urinary tract infection, or UTI. I had never had a UTI in my life so why now?
“I went back to see my surgeon once more. Again she said it doesn’t make sense, and doesn’t know why it happens. ‘If it only happens when you are dehydrated, just carry water with you,’ she advised. So I still didn’t get an answer. Carrying a bottle of water is like putting the band-aid on the bullet wound. She said there is nothing she can do except remove the mesh and redo the surgery. I went through hell having this in the first place so why do it again?
“If I could be guaranteed not to have the same problem, I would have this mesh removed and another one implanted. But no one can say for sure if it will be okay. Now I am prone to UTIs and yeast infections, which I never had before. I wake up in the middle of the night with the feeling of something pulling inside me.” And to make matters worse, for the past six months or so Fran has had a bit more leakage, so her incontinence issue may be returning.
“I am mainly so furious that no one told me this could be the end of my sexual life,” she says.“I was only 47 years old. And the more research I do, I just thank god that more serious transvaginal mesh side effects, such as mesh eroding into the vaginal wall, haven’t happened to me - yet. Recently a woman in her 30s here in Winnipeg had the same surgery and she has become completely disabled. Her story was in the newspaper and broadcast on the TV news. That is how I started researching TVM lawsuits.
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To this day, Fran still can’t have “conventional” sex without extreme pain. She was divorced before having the TVT and her sexual partner is now her platonic friend. She has tried lubricants and relaxants but says nothing works. “And it’s not worth going through the pain, but I miss the closeness,” she says.