KwaZulu-Natal – Phindile Mncube was barely 26 when doctors implanted surgical mesh into her lower abdomen, to stem excessive bleeding.
Mncube, from Mayville, south of Durban, says doctors from Addington Hospital did not inform her of her treatment options before or after surgery to control a haematoma, or localised bleeding, in October 2016. Months later, she started experiencing excruciating pain. Two years after the procedure, doctors from the King Edward Hospital discovered the source: A complication from a surgical mesh implant.
Excruciating pain, scarring and a compromised immunity
The clinic gave her tablets for the pain, which have not been helping.
“When I touch my stomach, it feels like there is a rock inside me. I have terrible scars, which are also painful to look at,” Mncube said.
Since the procedure, she has been in and out of hospital because of the severe pain and infections. Now, mandatory hospital check-ups at the King Edward Hospital, which discovered the source of her pain, have become complicated due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“When you are in pain, you don’t always remember to wear your mask, sanitise, keep your social distance, and wash your hands properly because you’re only concerned about the pain that you’re in.”
She takes tablets to boost her immunity and avoids hospital as much as possible.
“Although it is scary, I have the responsibility to look after my health and follow the rules and regulations of Covid-19 as I am at ‘high risk’ of being infected by this disease. It is not easy at all.”
Spreading awareness via social media
Mncube has linked up with other victims of botched mesh surgeries in South Africa, who are experiencing similar side effects such as chronic pain, discomfort and infections. She has spread awareness on social media and shared articles about the dangers of the devices. Her Facebook page, Mesh Victims South Africa, is dedicated to furthering education about the complications of mesh surgery.
A widely supported procedure
In women, surgical mesh is implanted to reinforce the vaginal wall for pelvic organ prolapse repair, or to support the urethra or neck of the bladder for the repair of stress urinary incontinence. The procedure is widely supported by
gynaecologists and urologists, but there can be side effects.
Surgical mesh is a high-risk medical device
The US Food and Drugs Administration says the most common hernia mesh complications are pain, infections, hernia recurrence, scar tissue that sticks tissues together (adhesion), obstruction of the large or small intestine, bleeding, and abnormal connections between organs (fistulas). Fluid build-up at the site of the surgery and perforation in neighbouring tissues or organs are also common. The authority says mesh should be classified as a high–risk medical device, after an analysis of adverse event reports and of peer-reviewed, scientific literature. It found most surgical mesh repair complications were associated with recalled products that are no longer on the market.
“Surgical mesh is not supposed to be used in the human body because it destroys your body from the inside and the pain makes your life miserable,” Mncube warned.
It might take years to experience any complications, but eventually, mesh will create problems. And those side-effects can be debilitating.