Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Woman in agony after transvaginal mesh inserted

‘It’s like I died Jan. 10 of 2012’

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Sometimes, Christine Asprey prays to die.

A 49-year-old mother of four, Asprey said she's been wracked by pain since surgery last year, where she received a transvaginal mesh.

Now, a group of Winnipeggers has banded together to raise thousands of dollars for Asprey to go to Los Angeles for medical help.

The mesh was a medical device meant to help Asprey. Instead, she believes it has caused her infections, excruciating hip and leg pain, neuromuscular pain, vaginal burning and pain, and emotional pain.

"It's like a cheese grater; every time I move it's taking pieces of tissue off," said Asprey.

Asprey worked as a hospital program assistant before she had an approximately two-hour surgery early last January at Health Sciences Centre's Women's Hospital.

She's been off work since and said she now is living "hell on Earth."

During the surgery, Asprey had a hysterectomy to deal with abnormal cells and received a mesh to help with incontinence and a prolapsed bladder. The complications started three weeks later, she said.

The mesh is made of polypropylene and stretches from the tailbone to the pubic bone.

"When I'm in that much pain, I do pray to God to die; yes, I want to die, because it's like a tug of war in my vagina that's pulling," she said.

Asprey's not alone in her complaints. The device has become a target of controversy, with dozens of women in Canada suing manufacturers for pain they say they've suffered due to meshes.

Paul Miller, Asprey's lawyer, said he's representing 160 women across Canada who have received the devices.

That includes Asprey and three other women in Manitoba, he said.

"I just thought I was doing a good thing for myself," she said.

Following her surgery, Asprey had problems urinating and had pain down the left side of her body.

In April 2012, she had another surgery. By October 2012, she was hospitalized for two more weeks because she could not walk.

She said she now feels "desperate" for relief.

"I can't sit. I can't drive... it's just devastating that your whole life is gone, your whole quality of life is gone," she said.

"You're a different person. It's like I died Jan. 10 of 2012."

Asprey said she and her doctor have written a letter to the government seeking help out of province. She does not have an answer yet.

Health officials disagree about the outcome of transvaginal mesh procedures.

Heidi Graham, spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA), said "transvaginal mesh procedures are used for the treatment of urine incontinence and vaginal prolapse."

Graham said using the mesh for urine incontinence has been "extensively studied" and provides "excellent treatment."

Each year, she said, there are 700 to 900 mesh-sling procedures done in the regional Women's Health Program to help patients with incontinence.

"Like any other surgical procedure, there are risks, but for this procedure they are quite low," she said. "For treating vaginal prolapse, the use of transvaginal mesh is not well-studied and does have higher rates of associated complications."

Graham said there are surgeons in the province who can take out the devices.

A spokeswoman for Manitoba Health said there have been 1,848 surgeries to insert transvaginal mesh in the last two years.

"To date, Manitoba Health has received and paid five claims for surgery performed in Winnipeg for the removal/repair of vaginal mesh," said the spokeswoman.

"In addition, Manitoba Health has received two requests for out-of-province consultations associated with previous mesh insertions. Both have been approved."

To get approval to go outside Manitoba for treatment, the spokeswoman said, a patient requires "a recommendation from a specialist that a patient needs a necessary, specific medical service" not available here.

Asprey's friends and family have formed a committee to raise thousands of dollars they say Asprey needs to travel to the U.S. and get specialized medical treatment at the University of California.

They'll be holding a fundraiser on March 15 at the Oak, at Canada Inns Destination Centre on Regent Avenue.

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 28, 2013 A3

History

Updated on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 9:05 AM CST: Adds line regarding letter to Manitoba Health.

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