UPDATE: Carolyn (Caz) Chisholm, of Perth Australia, started a search three years ago to find a surgeon and a hospital to sponsor a visit by Dr. Dionysios Veronikis (St. Louis, Missouri) to Australia because is skilled in the removal of pelvic mesh devices from women that no Australian surgeon can. Today, women must travel to the United States to have pelvic mesh removed in its entirety. Veronikis invented equipment to reach deep into the pelvis to retrieve mesh that no Aussie surgeons can reach. He’s removed more than 2000 meshes.
Larger prolapse meshes are very complicated and dangerous to remove, and it takes a special surgeon to remove them. Dr. Veronikis designed and patented specialized pelvic mesh removal equipment and instruments, which no other surgeon in the world has.
Recently, Caz left her leadership role in the Australian pelvic support group to devote her time and efforts to finding a surgeon and a hospital to sponsor a visit from Dr. Veronikis in the hopes that he would teach Aussie surgeons safe mesh removal techniques.
Like anti-mesh advocates across the globe, Aussie’s leaders do not like mesh or support mesh. They do not believe in partial removals and encourage full removal wherever possible to minimize the trauma to women. They want Australia to have the same removal possibilities that the U.S. does.
“This is a huge undertaking, and it involves a hell of a lot of work from numerous people including mesh-injured women themselves. Unfortunately, the RANZCOG (Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) stand by their statement that a partial removal is an acceptable form of treatment. They refuse to get on board with full removal procedures [even though] when pain occurs the only way is to remove all of the mesh,” wrote Chisholm.
Aussie injured women do not agree with RANZCOG’s and Professor Vancaille’s position about partial removal because “every single woman who has had this procedure ends up with more complications, [goes] back into hospital for more surgery, and often ends up with infections that don’t go away and [long-term] antibiotics.”
Aussie activists also try to help mesh injured women find pain specialists, accurate diagnoses, psychological help, and referrals to competent mesh removal surgeons—even if it means traveling half-way across the world.
Caz distinguishes between mesh used to treat prolapse and that used to treat urinary incontinence. Prolapse mesh is considered “high risk” by FDA officials but the SUI meshes are treated as the “gold standard.” There are no long-term studies proving the use of mesh is safe or efficacious. “RANZCOG states the clinical trials still need to be done for the SUI meshes; so this means that women are still guinea pigs,” wrote Chisholm.
She says women are being implanted with mesh unnecessarily and afterward, their GP’s don’t know how to treat them, and gynecologists deny care by saying their new problems are not related to mesh (duplicating the actions of doctors in the U.S. and all other countries). “These surgeons don’t want to know anything about the complications that their implants have caused women. In fact, I have read stories about surgeons being rude to the women, some shout at them, some get angry with them, simply because the woman is presenting with pain and complications. They are turning their backs on the women.
“It is diabolical what is happening. This is why we need t
o set up clinics Australia wide and find ethical and empathetic surgeons who want to be trained in full removal and to find the right medical professionals that really want to listen to these women, to believe them and not turn them away. It is a very specialised issue and needs to be addressed immediately,” the determined activist added.
Caz Chisholm won two awards for her advocacy work.
Peggy Day is working on a book to combine all these stories. This is an excerpt from Pelvis in Flames: Your Pelvic Mesh Owner’s Guide. Your input is welcome to help make Pelvis in Flames the book you need to read.
If you’d like to join an online support group and learn about erosion, partial removals, surgeons, or just find out that you are not alone, join my group, Surgical Mesh or check the list of support groups here.
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