Transvaginal mesh injuries are so devastating that it isn’t only women who have suffered themselves who are speaking out against the devices, their manufacturers and the surgeons who are still performing these procedures. Family and friends are watching the aftermath of mesh and it is changing their perspectives and even some of their lives.
Transvaginal mesh (TVM) is a type of surgical mesh used to repair pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and stress urinary incontinence. POP is when organs have dropped due to age, obesity or childbirth. Stress urinary incontinence is when a tiny bit of urine leaks during sneezing, coughing or heavy lifting.
In January, TVM was reclassified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a high risk device as the agency had received thousands of reports of complications including severe pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, infection, bleeding, organ perforation and urinary problems from mesh eroding into surrounding tissues. The more than 80,000 lawsuits against the manufacturers of TVM claim that many women are left with permanent, serious injuries and are unable to have sex and in constant, chronic pain.
These kinds of injuries change lives.
The Mesh Warrior is a daughter and friend who could have been a witness to adverse events and then gone on with her life. Instead she has become a self-proclaimed mesh “specialist” and advocate. The Mesh Warrior hosts a website seeking to build solidarity within the mesh community as they fight together for justice. The website is full not only of blog posts such as symptom spotlights, patient profiles, relevant news and empathetic, validating pieces, but also she’s put together links to many other resources that might serve mesh victims and their families.
“Here’s who I AM,” she said in one of her blogs. “I AM the daughter of a severely-injured woman….I AM the friend of many very, very sick mesh-implanted friends….I AM a journalist who specializes in the mesh controversy. I AM a curious human being, desperate to find answers and help the mesh-injured, whose names are on my brain when I go to sleep and when I wake up. I AM a woman who has just hours before, taken a break from reading depositions in the first Ethicon Bellwether case, to take my grandmother shopping at Walgreens. I AM a person who has read many, many scientific papers, medical journals and white papers regarding the problems with mesh–from the microbiological level to the procedural level and everything in between. I AM a woman who has accompanied patients to the exam rooms of the man whom many believe is the leading expert regarding mesh, and especially its removal. I AM a woman who’s been in exam rooms for consults, trans-labial ultrasounds, urodynamic testing, hematology appointments, and I’ve paid that darned $12 to park in the UCLA parking garage more times than I can count. I AM a woman who has interviewed the leading mesh expert and physician in person and in writing over email. I AM a vocal patient advocate.”
This wasn’t who she was before, but it’s who she became in response to all that she’s witnessed.
The Mesh Warrior wants to help these changed lives unite and direct the change with purpose. She says: “I advocate for my mother. I am self-proclaimed as The Mesh Warrior because I’ve chosen to try with the best of my abilities to forge a path, so that we can all walk towards the problem, armed with a shared vocabulary and a solidarity that sadly doesn’t yet exist. But I believe we are reaching a critical mass and one day soon, our voices will manifest quickly, well-connected, organized and with support of the injured who are not yet part of our little community and justice as our goal (not vengeance) to speak out about this ‘Mesh Syndrome’ as a family illness and a preventable, great wrong that has been done to many, many innocent people. I hope you will join me in the fight.”
She calls for family and friends to think of themselves as warriors and fighters and to identify themselves as part of the solution in what she calls an “epidemic medical issue.”