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Former King's Lynn journalist Kath Sansom's Sling the Mesh campaign raises awareness of mesh implant surgery





A former journalist from Lynn is raising awareness about the potential risks associated with vaginal and rectal mesh surgery.

Mesh implant surgery is used to treat prolapse and incontinence in women usually following childbirth, and some men have also had the procedure.

But pain and complications after the implants have left hundreds of people in the UK in pain and so a campaign in 2015 was launched which has led to the Government announcing a suspension in the use of vaginal mesh.

Kath Sansom campaigns to Sling The Mesh
Kath Sansom campaigns to Sling The Mesh

Kath Sansom from March, Cambridgeshire, worked as a journalist with part of her career spent freelancing at the Lynn News.

She initiated the Sling The Mesh campaign in 2015 following her own experience of mesh surgery.

Her journey started with some 20 people who had experienced pain from the implants and now the group has grown to some 10,000 members.

Kath Sansom campaigns to Sling The Mesh
Kath Sansom campaigns to Sling The Mesh

A main aim of the group is to obtain financial redress in recognition of the seriousness, hurt and injury suffered by survivors.

The campaign asserts the argument that there was a failure in warning patients, from manufacturers and surgeons, of the dangers of the surgery.

Kath has given a voice to the thousands of survivors who have suffered in silence who live with lifelong pain.

She said: "If it hadn't been for the campaign this would still be a taboo.

"People didn't want to hear about it but my editor at the Cambridge Times let me write.

"I was a freelance journalist and photographer but following the mesh surgery my health was compromised to such an extent that I had to close my photography business.

Sling The Mesh campaign
Sling The Mesh campaign

"I had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave journalism but in 2015 I was determined to make a difference to get the message out.

"Women were not being listened to and not taken seriously.

"I knew how to get the message out to both patients and the media who are suffering due to mesh surgery.

Campaigners for Sling The Mesh
Campaigners for Sling The Mesh

"With 20 women in the group and not knowing where it was going, it is now nearly 10,000 strong."

The campaign has called into review the type of mesh used for stress incontinence and the invasive procedure that patients have had to go through, but whose complaints after the operation but are not being heard.

Support has been offered by Steven Barclay, heath secretary and Emma Hardy MP for Hull West and Hessle.

MP Steve Barclay, heath minister, with Kath Sansom following the Government's announcement to suspend the use of vaginal mesh
MP Steve Barclay, heath minister, with Kath Sansom following the Government's announcement to suspend the use of vaginal mesh

Ms Hardy said: "The government have had two years to act on recommendations given in the Cumberlege report on surgical mesh and when parliament resumes, I will be asking the new Minister for a meeting to push the government to implement all the recommendations of the report and look at compensation similar to that recently given to the victims of the blood contamination scandal.

"In a statement on Women’s health strategy in June, I asked the Minister to make surgical mesh victims a priority going forward. The longer no action is taken the more people suffer."

Kath said: "The whole thing is terrible for women who are gaslit, ridiculed and ignored.

Kath Sansom is the founder of Sling The Mesh campaign and an award-winning journalist
Kath Sansom is the founder of Sling The Mesh campaign and an award-winning journalist

"My implanting surgeon pretty much laughed at me and made me feel like a neurotic mystery.

"It wasn't until I googled 'mesh surgery gone wrong' that I saw a blog from a woman from Oxford who I contacted."

Many women are fobbed off after this major surgery that is 'done blind' with the mesh being implanted through the vagina with large hooks to insert the plastic.

The plastic subsequently shrinks, twists and degrades inside the patent's body.

The side effects for survivors have been devastating, with loss of relationships, the ability to work, problems affecting intimacy and having to have other major organs removed, with some women ending up walking with a stick or in wheelchairs suffering long term consequences.

Sling The Mesh campaign artwork shows surgeons operating on a guinea pig
Sling The Mesh campaign artwork shows surgeons operating on a guinea pig

Kath said: "Mesh surgery was aggressively marketed as gold standard and minimally invasive and GPs inadvertently sent women thinking it was a simple day care surgery that would fix you for life.

"At the start of 2018, Jeremy Hunt, then Health Secretary called for a review into mesh implants included as one of three women's health treatments to be removed."

Members of Sling The Mesh have attended Parliament where woman gave harrowing accounts of the complications they now live with following vaginal mesh implants.

Some accounts describe leaking toxins, intrusive surgery in such a sensitive part of the body, the mesh turning brittle like a knife that cuts into the vaginal wall, bladder, bowel, womb and in some cases cutting into the partner's penis during sexual intercourse.

The after effects can cause constant urinary tract infections (UTI), becoming resistant to antibiotics due to their frequency and sepsis which can be life-threatening.

Statistics show that seven out of 10 women have lost their sex lives, one in four need a stick to walk, and 55 per cent suffer regular UTIs.

Kath said: "What is most important to women is financial redress.

"We are all innocent and have had our health and lives compromised.

"We shouldn't have to wait 40 years, as the victims of contaminated blood have.

"Some women are in wheelchairs and have lost pensions.

"I am not the woman that I was. It has taken a financial, physical and emotional toll."

Added to this, there are people who are aiming misogynistic vitriolic comments, which further exacerbates shame and blame.

Kath said: "Women who have had vibrant careers are now self catheterising.

"I am at the good end, I have fluctuating pain and chronic fatigue.

"Women are being belittled and we need to be financially redressed for the enormity of what we have suffered."

The options for having reversal surgery to remove vaginal mesh are also complex due to the nature of the surgery.

Kath said: "It’s like removing chewing gum from matted hair, so it’s not like, for example, taking out a breast implant.

"It’s highly complex surgery as the mesh weave embeds itself into tissue and nerves plus some it of can fragment off.

"So nobody ever goes back to what they were pre-mesh.

"All of us have compromised health as a result on a sliding scale."



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