November 25, 2012 ~ Last June, mesh victim, Pat Buchanan was visited in her Seattle apartment by a television news crew from KING-TV.
They filmed her going through her triathlon gear which she had shelved after she began experiencing synthetic mesh complications in 2011. The story is here.
One week later, Buchanan would be going under the knife for the second of two mesh removals at the capable hands of UCLA urogynecologist and surgeon, Dr. Shlomo Raz, regarded as the top doctor for mesh removals in the world.
Mesh Medical Device News Desk (MDND) prepared a Patient Profile of Buchanan last January (here) where she talked about the triathlon she had to quit in 2011 because of the pain.
Today, after two mesh removal surgeries at UCLA, Buchanan is out of the excruciating, debilitating pain and is not only able to stand, but is able to walk up to six miles a day. However, running triathlons still eludes her, at least for now.
Buchanan’s Long Hard Road
In 2006, after testing positive for a gene mutation, Buchanan had a hysterectomy and her ovaries removed. Doctors put in two synthetic meshes. A Bard Marlex was implanted through the abdomen to correct a prolapsed vaginal canal (POP), and in a separate surgery, a Monarc (American Medical Systems) Subfascial Hammock was used to shore up her bladder and urethra as a treatment for stress urinary incontinence (SUI).
Abdominally-placed mesh to hold up the bladder and/or urethra, results in fewer problems said an expert panel meeting before the FDA in September 2011. Buchanan wonders if that’s because doctors do fewer of them.
Regardless, there is no FDA warning that mentions abdominally-placed mesh and legally those cases appear to be on the back burner to the transvaginally mesh placement lawsuits. Buchanan says she wonders where that leaves those patients who, like her, have had both types of mesh implant.
The Worst Pain I’ve Ever Felt
By the time Buchanan went in for her first surgery in October 2011, the long distance runner couldn’t stand for more than 15 seconds. She was wheeled into UCLA for her first removal surgery of the Marlex mesh.
“The pain with those is intractable, that pain you can’t get rid of it. It is you just can’t function; it’s indescribable, literally I just couldn’t face another day of that pain. By the time Dr. Raz had a cancellation I wanted to be euthanized. We don’t treat dogs that way.”
“I feel so fortunate because getting a hold of the patient advocates. They helped me get into see Dr. Raz and gave me a plan. I had been fumbling on my own while doctors said it was not the mesh. I thought I was dying and nobody seemed to care, or admit to it. I was up at night shaking from the pain and infection. Nights were hell,” Buchanan says today.
Besides pain Buchanan was experiencing autoimmune reactions, pneumonia, allergies, canker sores, fatigue, and headaches.
“I’m an extremely healthy person and felt like I was falling apart. There wasn’t a single doctor who would believe that the mesh had any correlation.”
Dr. Raz found synthetic mesh had sawed its way through Buchanan’s vagina and adhered to her colon and embedded in her sacrum causing neurological problems. A portion of the mesh was infected and adhered to her spine. In a major surgery, Buchanan was opened up from the abdomen to each hipbone. Dr. Raz had to slice between the mesh and the colon to remove the Marlex and reconstruct a portion of her vagina. She says he is as certain as anyone can be that the Marlex was removed.
In the past, doctors had tried to trim the mesh through the vagina which just makes it more difficult to find and remove by the next doctor. Buchanan says before Dr. Raz, no one wanted to talk about removing it.
After her October surgery, Buchanan had an immediate relief of the abdominal, pelvic, and leg pain, but the symptoms remained in the right foot which felt like it was an arthritic claw.
Second Surgery Last June
Buchanan scheduled the Monarc mesh removal for June 29 in a separate surgery since Dr. Raz cannot perform abdominal and transvaginal surgery at the same time. Buchanan had the Monarc mesh removed and her bladder lifted with permanent sutures as well as a rectocyle (rectum and vaginal wall prolapse) and cystocele (bladder and vaginal wall prolapsed) lift with sutures.
As of today, Buchanan says she is rid of the pain from the mesh but is still having problems such as a rectal fissure, allergies, though not as bad, allergic headaches, and she is not totally continent. She says she cannot empty her bladder without standing up.
But physically she’s almost back. “I was able to take the stairs almost from the get go. Up three flights, no elevator. I’m a fast healer after having been in such good shape. It helps everything.”
But overall she says things have improved so much she was truly thankful this Thanksgiving. This year she could walk, pick up her granddaughter, and cook.
She will seek more help for the ongoing pain in her urethra, and a fissure in her rectum, but for this athlete to go from not being able to stand up to an hour-long spin class, core work, crunches, and walking up to 6 miles a day, Buchanan is content, at least for now.
Her COBRA insurance ends in ten months and Obamacare for adults with preexisting conditions doesn’t start until 2014. Buchanan says the upshot is that she’ll be uninsured for at least a year.
She talks about mesh to whoever will listen and hears stories she wishes she didn’t.
“A doctor tried to sell mesh to a friend of mine’s 82-year-old mother a few days ago by telling her that there’s ‘bad mesh and good mesh.’ When will this insanity stop?” she asks. #