LYNDA Garlinge spent nearly 10 years dealing with severe and disabling complications after surgery for incontinence in 2004, without knowing she had been implanted with mesh.
Her doctor was dead by 2014 when she sat in a cafe and read surgery notes saying she had been implanted with Johnson & Johnson mesh without her consent.
“I felt like I’d been raped. That’s how I felt,” said Mrs Garlinge, 65, of the Central Coast.
“I was a normal, hard-working woman with slight incontinence. I was running a business. He said he was going to fix me. He said he’d be able to operate and fix it for me and that it wasn’t a big thing.
“There was no mention of mesh.”
When she woke from surgery Mrs Garlinge was in horrific pain and could not urinate. She remained in hospital for a week.
Her life from that point was not her own, she said.
I felt like I’d been raped. That’s how I felt.
For a decade she received treatment for an extraordinary cluster of symptoms and pain syndromes.
“The pain just starts like a fire inside and you can’t put it out,” she said.
“It’s like my body is screaming and there’s no explaining it to anyone.”
Mrs Garlinge is one of 450 Australian women in a Shine Lawyers class action against Johnson & Johnson that will be heard from July. The women received mesh to treat incontinence and prolapse. The case is expected to run for six months and will be one of the largest medical civil actions ever run in Australia.
In a defence lodged with the Federal Court in response to the Australian women’s case Johnson & Johnson denied many of the women’s allegations, said that treating surgeons would be expected to inform women of risks associated with mesh surgery, and the company made available information, including warnings, to surgeons. About 4000 Australian women are believed to have been implanted with Johnson & Johnson mesh devices.
In May, 2016 the Attorney-General of the American state of Washington launched civil action against Johnson & Johnson, alleging the company marketed its mesh products as “new and revolutionary”, and knew complications were “caused by the design and placement of the mesh and cannot be avoided by good surgical technique alone”.
In pleadings to the King County Superior Court Attorney-General Robert Ferguson alleged Johnson & Johnson misrepresented the safety and efficacy of its mesh devices, and the polypropylene mesh products “trigger a number of adverse reactions in the human body”.
“The mesh hardens, contracts, erodes into other body organs and becomes so rigid and distorted that complete mesh removal is extremely difficult and often impossible,” Mr Ferguson alleged.
About 12,000 women in the state of Washingon alone were implanted with Johnson & Johnson mesh devices between 2005 and 2015.
Mrs Garlinge said she felt completely betrayed by doctors and Australia’s health system, including peak health regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which allowed mesh devices to be used in Australia without sufficient evidence supporting their safety.
“The TGA is fully responsible for allowing it into this country. Doctors just like shoving the mesh in. It’s all too easy,” she said.
She cried as she talked about the joy she once experienced as a talented portrait artist.
“I can’t even stand long enough to paint now,” she said.
It was a woman talking to the media about her mesh complications that led Mrs Garlinge to ask for her hospital records, so that she could sit in a cafe and find out the truth.