Wallsend Mum's medical nightmare

FOR five years, Trish Sara’s life was ripped to shreds by a medical device that she says felt like barbed wire scratching the inside of her body.

She is one of five Newcastle women to have joined what has the potential to be one of the biggest product class actions in Australia.

The case centres on transvaginal mesh created by medical corporation Johnson & Johnson.

The mesh is used to treat prolapse after childbirth, a common condition where the bladder, uterus or bowel protrudes into the vagina.

It is stitched into the top of the vagina and acts like a sling by supporting the internal organs.

It has been confirmed that at least 39,000 Australian women have used the device to treat a prolapse. So far, 390 have signed up to the class action, which has been launched by Shine Lawyers.

Ms Sara,  from Wallsend, decided to join the fight because she says she feels “damaged inside”.

“I’m absolutely furious this has been allowed to happen, this will destroy a lot of women’s lives; it has mine,” she said. “All the pain and suffering I’ve been put through. It feels damaged inside me; it’s always sore.”

Ms Sara decided to try the mesh in 2008 after two surgeries  failed to deliver a long-term solution.

Her prolapse started after she gave birth to two children and then had a hysterectomy.

Now 53, she struggles to hold back tears when she reflects on all that she has been through.

“It’s pretty barbaric,” she said. “The mesh came up as an option later on after my third prolapse. They thought that was the best way to fix it.

“From the time the mesh went in, I had pain all the time.’’

 As a result, intimacy with her husband became impossible. This had taken a huge emotional toll on Ms Sara because her husband died suddenly in 2009  from   kidney cancer.

 Ms Sara said she was  in the middle of the long and difficult process of having the mesh removed.

 “I’ve had to have parts of my bowel removed because it tangled around it,” Ms Sara said. “I’ve felt unwell and sick since I’ve had the mesh put in. The amount of time I had to take off work because I felt so unwell and tired has been incredible.”

Ms Sara said she decided to sign up to the class action because her doctors told her what happened wasn’t right.

 “The prolapse was embarrassing and uncomfortable but I wasn’t in pain,” she said.

 “Nothing is going to fix what has happened, what you were living through every day, it should never be allowed to be used again.”

Johnson & Johnson removed its mesh product from the Australian market in 2012.

Rebecca Jancauskas, a partner at Shine Lawyers, said the hundreds of women who had contacted the firm so far had also spoken of serious complications.

A spokeswoman from Ethicon, the subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson that creates surgical products, said risks were always involved when looking at the type of surgeries involving the mesh. 

“While we are always concerned when a patient experiences adverse medical conditions, all pelvic surgeries involving implantable mesh present risks of complications,” she said.

“Women who may be concerned should speak with their physician.

 “For more than a decade, Ethicon has invested in the research, development and clinical study of products to treat a wide range of pelvic disorders,’’ she said.

  ‘‘Ethicon’s devices are among the most studied products for these conditions.”

Trish Sara.  Picture: Simone De Peak

Trish Sara. Picture: Simone De Peak