A WOMAN who was “crippled” by controversial mesh implant surgery says she wants to help others “reclaim their lives” – by starting a support group for fellow victims of the procedure.
Lizzy Ford, 54, was told the “gold standard” transvaginal mesh operation would “change her life” when she went under the knife in 2010 after struggling with stress incontinence following the birth of her daughter.
However Mrs Ford, from Penicuik, was left in chronic pain for five years after the surgery, rendering her unable to work and confining her to a mobility scooter.
She is now urging other survivors across the Lothians to share their experiences as part of a new support network.
Mesh operations were suspended in Scotland in 2014 pending an investigation into its safety after thousands of women told a Holyrood committee about the life changing side effects they had experienced. Mrs Ford revealed she has suffered five years of physical complaints after the procedure, forcing her to leave her job in a supermarket, despite being told by doctors that the pain was “all in her head”.
She said: “The pain is absolutely chronic, every day I have to apply a heat pad to my back and I’ll sit with a hot water bottle on my stomach. It feels like there is barbed wire tearing through my insides.
“I was struggling to even walk up and down the aisles and there came a point where I just could not do it anymore.”
She added: “I’m at the stage now where it feels like I am living in the body of an 80-year-old and I am not ready for that.”
The mesh, usually made from synthetic polypropylene, is intended to repair damaged or weakened tissue. However some women have reported severe abdominal and vaginal pain following the surgery, and some have been told that they can no longer have sexual intercourse.
The operations are banned in Australia and the UK health watchdog, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, recommended against the treatment late last year.
Mrs Ford admitted family members found it hard to deal with her deteriorating condition, however continued to support throughout her treatment.
She said: “For Rachel, my daughter, it was difficult. She was a student in Glasgow at the time so even though we are extremely close, she wasn’t there all the time.
“I think for her to come back and see me in the state I was, it was hard.”
Mrs Ford added: “This is an opportunity for us to reclaim our lives and if we get just one woman to come forward and speak openly about her experience, then that will be worth it.”
Kath Sansom, founder of the campaign group Sling the Mesh, said: “Any woman who has gone through mesh implant surgery has suffered a personal tragedy and for women to have access to these kind of support groups is really important, it proves there is strength in numbers.”