Years ago, Australian citizen Julie Davis had envisioned her perfect life. She would travel around the world, find the husband of her dreams, and settle down to start a family. Everything went according to plan until Mrs. Davis underwent surgery to correct a severe case of bladder prolapse that developed after the birth of her first child 10 years ago.
Mrs. Davis had to wait until after all of her children were born to repair her prolapse, which in her case was so severe the bladder extruded outside the body. When she was ready, her surgeon attached polypropylene transvaginal mesh across the pelvic area like a sling to help the muscles hold her bladder in its proper position.
But instead of improving her condition, Mrs. Davis said that the transvaginal mesh turned her life into a “traumatic” and “devastating” nightmare. In addition to constant pain and discomfort, Ms. Davis said she “just felt unwell all the time.”
“I also had this feeling – lack of energy, like my body was fighting something all the time,” Ms. Davis told the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC).
Mrs. Davis eventually found a new surgeon who could explain to her what was happening with the mesh inside of her body. He told her that the bladder moved back and forth on top of the mesh sling holding it in place, so that the mesh had a cheese grater effect on the organs and tissue that it contacted with regular movement. In effect, the device rubbed a hole into the wall of her vagina.
Transvaginal mesh devices can also perforate the bladder and other organs, causing bleeding and potentially deadly infection.
For Mrs. Davis, the pain became so debilitating that she could no longer walk and had to rely on a motorized scooter to get around. Sexual intercourse became too painful. Mr. Davis told ABC the experience put him in “survival mode” and he spent all of his time “just trying to hold everything together.” The family business suffered and the emotional toll on everyone became almost too much to bear.
“It did get to the point where I just actually was chronically depressed and I had to go to see a (general physician) and go on antidepressants,” Mrs. Davis told ABC. Mrs. Davis added that at one point, she was became so desperate that she was driving her car in a part of Sydney with high rocky sea cliffs when she thought how easy it would be to just turn the wheel and go off.
After having five surgeries to remove the transvaginal mesh from her body, Mrs. Davis and her husband are trying to rebuild their lives. Mrs. Davis has joined a large class-action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson in Australia, brought by women who allege the mesh devices caused severe and debilitating injuries. Her lawyer estimates that as many as 20,000 Australian women have had their pelvic organ prolapse or stress urinary incontinence repaired with transvaginal mesh, and told ABC that the mesh class action has the potential to become the largest product class action in Australian history.
“I hope that we’re over the hill now and start rebuilding our lives again in the way that we planned to begin with,” Mr. Davis told ABC. “We had great plans and great ideas of how we wanted to build our life, with the children, etc. and I feel that life has been running away from us and we haven’t been able to sit back and enjoy some of it.”