A YOUNG woman has been unable to go to the toilet properly for seven years after mesh surgery made her life hell.
Chloe Thurston was just 15 when she had the op, to treat a suspected internal prolapse after years of heavy periods.
But for the past seven years, the now 22-year-old from Corsham, has had to endure endless medical checks and lives in agony.
Chloe, a call handler for the Fire Service, is thought to be one of the youngest victims of mesh surgery in the UK.
May 1 is Mesh Awareness day and since the late nineties, countless women in the UK have had mesh implants.
They are small pieces of plastic that were billed as a cheap, cost-effective miracle cure for women with incontinence or post-birth prolapse.
Thousands of women are now facing a lifetime of pain, exacerbated by the fact meshes are almost impossible to remove. In some cases, they’ve eroded, split, or become embedded in organs, with plastic toxins leaching into the system.
A recent independent review into the scandal concluded, “Patients have suffered at the hands of clinicians who do not listen.”
SICK AND BLOATED
Chloe, 22, cannot go to the toilet, and instead is forced to irrigate her bowels every single evening.
She told The Sun: “From the moment I woke up after mesh surgery to fix a suspected internal prolapse in 2013, my life has been completely different. I went into that operation as a normal, sporty 15-year-old teenager who loved being with friends and going for runs, and came out of it unable to go to the loo.
“Everything I took for granted was suddenly taken away from me”
Chloe said that irrigating her bowel is the only way to get rid of waste in her body as she no longer has any sensation which tells her she needs to go – and if she doesn’t do it, she is left feeling sick and bloated.
All of this discomfort is due to the fact that Chloe has pigskin biological mesh inserted.
Years after mesh was inserted, horror stories started. Women found it hard to walk after surgery, or developed unusual auto-immune conditions. Initially, no one listened. Then five years ago campaign group Sling the Mesh was formed. It currently has 8600 members.
Founder of Sling the Mesh Kath Sansom told The Sun, “Women have suffered life-changing, irreversible complications after having meshes for issues that could have been solved with lifestyle changes, physio or more conservative therapies.
“Seven out of ten of our members have lost their sex lives, while six out of ten suffer from depression.
“While the use of incontinence mesh slings and vaginal prolapse mesh are banned, abdominal prolapse meshes are allowed, and people are being told they are safe. Our aim is to ban all mesh operations.”
Despite the issues she has faced, Chloe now lives with her boyfriend Johnny, 25 a firefighter.
Chloe said the pair recently bought a house together and that Johnny has been really supportive of her condition.
She said: “He’s used to my nightly ritual now, but when we first met through friends when I was 18, I was so scared of telling him. Who wants to deal with that in the first days of a relationship?”
Chloe’s nightmare started when she was just 13-years-old and started to suffer with really heavy periods.
She said that one one occasion the pain was so bad that she was rushed to hospital.
“I’d been taking the Pill to ease my symptoms and it had caused the lining of my womb to come away.
“An X-ray revealed I was also suffering from constipation, and a surgeon diagnosed an internal prolapse. They operated in December 2013, inserting a biological pigskin mesh along the left side of my bowel.
“I was young and anxious, and didn’t really understand what it all meant, but I trusted the medical team and assumed whatever they recommended would make me feel better, and so did my parents.”
After the op, Chloe said she was unable to evacuate her bowel normally and nurses taught her an irrigation technique using a bag filled with water that you connect to the rectum via a tube – like giving yourself an enema.
Chloe said: “I was told my body would retrain itself and within six months I’d be able to go to the loo again normally, but that’s never happened.
“I was in so much pain but when I visited A&E they dismissed it as anxiety-related. I felt like no one was listening to me.
“Worst of all, I ended up being signed off school against my wishes and on the advice of my paediatrician, who also thought I was suffering from anxiety. It was a struggle even to convince my parents that the pain was real.”
Chloe was unable to take her GCSEs and instead went to college to study beauty and business.
Once she turned 16 she was readmitted for investigative surgery.
She said: “One medic suggested I needed further internal prolapse surgery, but two more disagreed.
MISELD AND LET DOWN
Linda Millband of Thompsons Solicitors, who is representing Chloe, said: “Sadly, Chloe’s case isn’t a one-off.
"We are representing hundreds of women with similar horror stories, and they’re probably the tip of the iceberg.
“Chloe put her trust in a system that was meant to deliver what was best for the patient, but in fact Chloe was misled and let down.
“We are committed to fighting against the use of mesh and prevent the irreparable damage it can cause.”
See Thompsons.law for more information.
“The second surgeon believed further surgery would cause more harm, and the third said I should never have had the surgery in the first place. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”
In August last year, investigative keyhole surgery revealed scarring in Chloe’s bowel.
Pigskin meshes should biodegrade but Chloe’s had embedded itself.
She added; “I’ve been under six surgeons in total now and each one says something different every time they investigate.
“It’s really hard to know who to trust or who has my best interests at heart.
"I’ve even been told it was highly unlikely I’d had an internal prolapse in the first place, as I was so young, so there was no reason for the mesh to be inserted at all.
“They believe I may have had a global bowel dysfunction which means in certain scenarios when I’m under stress my bowel doesn’t work as well as it should.
“I try to stay positive, but some days it is impossible. It’s hard knowing every evening must end with me inflicting pain on myself.”
Although her sex life with her boyfriend Johnny hasn’t been affected, Chloe said there are now fears she will be unable to have children.
She added: “When I was younger, that didn’t affect me so much but now I’m settling down I think it more and more. There’s no way of knowing until we start trying.
“I’ve looked into mesh removal, but surgeons are reluctant as I’m so young, which is ironic given I was operated on aged 15. I could have a colostomy bag, but I’ve heard horror stories where people have a bag fitted but still have to irrigate as well.”
Chloe said her employer has been “hugely supportive" of her condition and accepts that there are things she just can’t do.
She said: "I can’t do what other 22-year-olds can – like go to festivals or go on holiday with friends or my partner, because it’s dangerous for me now as I’ve had sepsis twice.
“The thought of being stuck abroad with sepsis is too terrifying. While I used to be sporty and active, my condition has slowed me down.”
Chloe says she tries to stay as positive as possible, but admits it’s hard to socialise with her condition.
She added: “It’s hard to socialise or go to the pub knowing that I have to go home and irrigate, but if I give in then I’d end up hiding away at home.
“I go to the gym and I recently climbed a mountain, and there are consequences as I’ll be in pain afterwards. But I refuse not to do the stuff that makes me happy.
“I feel I didn’t need the surgery in the first place: I was just a guinea pig for someone who wanted to try out mesh surgery, and that’s why I’m taking legal action. It’s so hard not to feel bitter about having what should be the most carefree years of my life taken away from me.”
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