Liz Reece is a 48-year-old woman from Oxfordshire, United Kingdom who had a mild case of incontinence.
“I went into an Oxford hospital’s pelvic clinic for incontinence and had the urodynamics test which showed mild stress incontinence,” she told MDND. Informed Consent?
The divorced mother of two teenagers was told by a medical trainee in the clinic that the senior gynecologist said she could “have the TVT”. Reece says there was no discussion of alternatives and no pelvic physical therapy mentioned. “She did not explain any complications at all, did not give me information nor explain that I would need time off work afterwards” says Reece. “I should have asked questions but I trusted what I had been offered,” she said. After all, the surgeon was a gynecologist in charge of the clinic. Reece received the GyneCare TVT mesh by Johnson & Johnson in February 2011 and took two weeks off work as a career and higher education adviser in an international college.
Because she had not received any warnings of what to look for, Reece was surprised when she woke up from surgery. “I had more pain than when I had my children without pain relief. It was agony.”
She went home and two weeks later Reece says she was still in agony.
“I started having shooting pains in the pelvic area and I was not coping. The meds made me ill. I could not walk. I was literally moving with a shuffle and I had to walk at college a lot. I could not pee, not have intercourse with my new partner, no way.”
And Reece says it got worse.
She returned to her General Practitioner with complaints shooting pains like a knife twisting inside me and burning sensation in pubic area - I was in a bad way. I had been very active. It was very, very tough.” The GP thought that one of the insertion points of the mesh was infected. The GP referred her back to the gynecologist.. An ultrasound did not show the tape and the gynecologist – the original surgeon - couldn’t find anything wrong. Reece says she was told she probably had nerve damage and she could choose physiotherapy or have the mesh removed. That was when she asked the hospital for a consult with the patient advice liaison service in the hospital whose job it is to help people with complications.
“They are very, very good. I was quite assertive and asked for a second opinion.” Then the numbness began. It gradually worsened to include all one side (left) and included face and hands.
That is when she met with the surgeon who would come to her rescue. Dr. Natalia Price at Oxford Gynecology found mesh poking through her skin where the infection was and she could feel the tape through the vaginal wall. Listening to her options, she decided to have Dr. Price remove the mesh completely and laparoscopically, working together with another senior urogynecologist.
Reece had the mesh removed on May 9, 2011.
“I felt different immediately. My face brightened according to my partner. My mother could see the difference” she says during recovery. “She did a beautiful job” says Reece of Dr. Price. “She was amazing and so skilled,” Reece says of the six abdominal incisions and vaginal stitches which were barely noticeable. Reece kept the mesh in her freezer as sort of a memento to her traumatic health challenge. She says it smelled like acrylic plastic, similar to the smell she once encountered in a plastics factory.
Reece says word is getting out about Dr. Price and Oxford Gynecology and she wants more to know about her chapter. “I talk about it freely because I think it’s important. I can now sneeze without leaking; it’s been addressed with exercise. I was taught how to do exercises and it’s working. That’s where we should have started.”
Ten weeks after removal, Reece was back surfing, cycling, walking and almost back to normal. She calls her urogynecologist surgeon “amazing” and under Britain’s National Health Service she didn’t pay a dime for the surgery although she knows the cost was high.
"As a mother, a partner of a wonderful man I want to spend my life with, a worker responsible for many young people, I hear stories of mothers and grandmothers who can’t pick up their children and women who can’t work. Mesh pain is not a little bit of pain, it’s like barbed wire inside.
"'I've talked to many women with mesh problems and I know what it's like. My heart goes out to all those suffering mesh pain and not able to find a way out. I’m one of the lucky ones and I realize that and thank Dr. Price every day for her skills and empathy."