Tag Archives: Mesh Salesmen in the OR

Did a Salesman Oogle Your Pelvic Mesh Surgery? – Salesmen in the OR

You may be surprised to learn just how your doctor purchased the pelvic sling he put in your body. Truth is, he didn’t have to lift a finger. His sales rep brought it to him. Moreover, there is a good chance your salesman watched your doctor put it in you and, he may even have “scrubbed in” and performed part of your surgery.

It is no accident that your surgeon “forgot” to mention the manufacturer’s rep might be in your surgery. Manufacturers are well aware that the practice is very controversial and don’t want you to know. David S. Hilzenrath discovered the obfuscation while preparing for his 2009 Washington Post story about salesmen boosting sales by participating in operations:

“(S)ome companies want nothing to do with a story about sales rep in the operating room.
“‘I would hope that you would not mention Boston Scientific in your story,’ a spokesman for that company e-mailed.
“Major device makers such as Johnson & Johnson, Stryker and Zimmer declined to arrange interviews for this article.”

POLY IS FOR ELECTRIC WIRES

Mesh injured women began realizing that manufacturers invaded their surgeries, not when they were asked to sign a consent for an observer to be there while their genitals were being operated on, but afterward when they found evidence by reading their own charts. Detail men around the world routinely attend surgeries to make sure doctors don’t use competitors’ products.

In 2008, Ronda Yancy (not her real name) was appalled when she retrieved her own medical record: “I found out, after my surgery, that a Johnson & Johnson Gynecare sales representative was in the O.R. with me.”

Yancy, who died at 52, after living her final years dealing with mesh complications and a string of illnesses, had been implanted the Gynecare Prolift (a polypropylene-based surgical mesh device used to treat pelvic organ prolapse). The Prolift was first introduced by J&J in 2005 without an F.D.A. approval and was soon the source of alarming federal complaints. It wasn’t removed from the market until a year after Ronda’s death, in 2012.

Ronda’s pelvic sling sawed itself out of the space it was supposed to be and into her vagina, causing her suffer years of infections and disabling pelvic pains. “I sure never thought that some day I’d be crying just cause I can’t stand to wear underwear anymore, much less pick up my grandkids,” said Ronda. “After the surgery I couldn’t walk properly and am in constant cutting pain. Doctors say I am the first patient to ever have problems.”

After Ronda posted in an online support group, others began to look at their operative reports and at least three found that salesmen had been in the room with them while they slept. One said she felt like she’d been “drugged and raped.”

One nurse wrote to the group, “The hospital loves for the reps to come in because their labor is free and they provide free products to use. The reps bring in pizza dinners and cater lunches from time to time and so the O.R. staff loves them too.

Trendelenberg

Jack-knife position for vaginal surgery. (Posed by clothed woman)

Bill Mackay, a high school drop-out and device salesman who performed the major part of a surgery that crippled a man in 1975, was never mentioned in that patient’s chart. He later wrote in a tell-all book, Salesman Surgeon, that he took over lead surgeon, David Lipton’s position during a hip replacement, ordered the nurse to hand him sharp instruments, hammered and chiseled away at bones and removed one hip prosthesis and implanted another. He said it was the “one of nicest pieces of surgery (he’d) ever seen or done”  but the patient, Franklin Mirando didn’t agree. The forty-two-year-old service station owner never walked again after Mackay was done with him.

In 1977, criminal charges for assault and misrepresenting business records were made against salesman Mackay, two surgeons, a nurse and the Smithtown General Hospital. Investigations were launched by both state legislators and the Sulfolk County Medical Society. Despite all the hoopla, the charges were eventually dropped and the manufacturers across the country began to have free rein inside operating rooms.

What could possibly go wrong when you send wet-eared salesmen into an operating room? In 1998, another device rep was sued after he operated a machine during a fibroid removal surgery and 30-year-old Lisa Smart died within hours. Lawyers found Lisa’s surgeons had botched many aspects of her surgery including overloading her with fluid. She drowned. Her husband’s lawyers were also shocked to discover Johnson & Johnson sales rep, David Myers, was operating the dials on the unauthorized machine that delivered electrical impulses to her uterus. “The patient was never given the chance to consent to the use of the equipment or the presence of the salesman,” the New York Times reported at the time. The hospital a was fined $30,000 and Myers disappeared from sight. Yet again, in the face of another disastrous outcome, device marketers stepped up their pace.

Classes for prospective salesmen include topics like: “how to get inside a surgical suite without an invitation” or how “to sell without making the surgeon feel that he’s being sold” or even “the art of engaging surgeons in conversation.”  Candidates are invariably young, good-looking go-getters whose training lasted no longer than a few weeks. Although a college education is recommended, it is not always required. Despite the fact that pelvic mesh sellers are given an unfettered view of your genitals, there is no evidence that they were ever required to go through a background check–although your nurse sure was.

bathing-machine-with-men-ogling-women

Recently, two pelvic mesh recipients found out that salesmen had been with them by reading their charts. One woman noticed a set of unfamiliar initials next to “Ass.,” or assistant surgeon, on her operative report and set out to investigate. She found another document with the full name spelled out and remembered her surgeon mentioning he was going to “ask the advice” of his salesman with the same name. She was never told he would be there. A modest woman, she can’t digest the fact that a total stranger was afforded a clear view of her most private area. As if to compound the emotional harm from realizing a salesman had seen her tilted backward, legs spread on an operating table, she said the same sales rep later visited her in her home–right after she made an official complaint about her mesh injuries.

It the manufacturers are working hard to hide the presence of salesmen in operating rooms, there is no way to know if, when your transobturator-tape was pulled to tight, it was really the detail man who tugged too hard on that trocar or if his scrubbing technique was not up to standard and that’s why you had a post-operative infection.

If you would like to look up your medical record, be prepared to put a little wear and tear on your shoe leather. Go to your hospital medical record department in person and ask for the complete report of your surgery, including the label for you implant. Most medical record departments provide only the surgeon’s dictated report, especially when you ask by mail, but there is a lot more paperwork than that. Look for your consent, your anesthesiologist’s minute-to-minute accounting, your nurse’s count of sponges and instruments, and your interoperative report, which should contain the names of everyone who attended your surgery.

Yancy felt she was invalidated every step of the way after her implant. Doctor after doctor told her, “Mesh is the gold standard, it can’t be the mesh.” She summed it up in one word saying she had been “Gaslighted,” a reference to the 1944 movie, Gaslight, in which Charles Boyer pulled dirty tricks on Ingrid Bergman and then told her she must be going crazy–all the while pretending he had her best interest at heart. What a perfect phrase. Are you being Gaslighted?


Peggy Day is working on an investigative report on pelvic mesh salesmen in the operating room. She welcomes any input you may have about the questionable practice.

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, check the list of support groups here.

Subscribe to MeshTroubles.com to learn more about pelvic mesh. I’d like to hear from you if you are helped by what you read here or if you need to know more about any particular topic. Comment below or email me privately at daywriter1@gmail.com.

Woman Explains Why Mesh Litigants Are Not Money-Hungry Fools

Personal Story by Sandra T.*

I just responded to an extremely cocky Endo Pharmaceuticals sales representative. They aren’t the nicest, nor brightest. He was saying some pretty nasty things about one of the first surgeon to sound the alarm about mesh, Dr. Ostergard, and the women who get the mesh– how they are all just trying to have their big payday….HAH….as if.
My reply wasn’t as good as I’d wanted, but I believe he got the point.

MESH IS FOR scrubbers

Here is Sandra’s reply:
If you are a sales person for any of these medical devices, kits, etc, you really don’t want the truth now, do you? Do you have children? Or if you are a male sales rep, do you have a wife? Knowing how disabling this mesh (and all mesh) can be would certainly give me pause. 
I would love to believe that you all really do care, but to be honest, I doubt any of you really of you do—not until it hits home.
I do believe in order to obtain the jobs you have, you must have a basic idea of biology, and how things work. If not, you shouldn’t be in this field. As corrupt as it already is, you’re not doing anyone a favor.
Now, back to your wife, or God forbid your daughter, niece, or Mom. Would you want a surgeon with so little skill that she merely attended the weekend cadaver course to learn how to implant a product that is made of the same material as a hula-hoop? There is oil in them there mesh kits.
Do you know what polypropylene does to your system? Well, it’s not inert as the makers would want you to believe. No. It shrinks, it scars, it wraps itself around really important organs like your bowel or bladder. I had mine cutting through my urethra. The surgeon had to scrape it off my bladder and, for eight hours, he tried to get that crap out because very well meaning surgeons who can implant this crap were never given a single lesson on how to take it out. Not until 155px-NWTND_bag_Page_8-1 only recently have just a handful of qualified surgeons been able to remove this crap.
Now, once again, I ask you this question: Look at your beautiful wife, daughter, or whichever female has ever meant anything to you. Would you seriously want this crap in any of them, knowing they have a 40% chance of erosion, foreign body reaction, pain that is equivalent to giving birth, having cancer, or wanting to die but knowing that dying would just hurt their babies more?
Think about what you’re doing to women. Please try to find that place where you were when you began working in this business and wanted to make a difference.
They called Dr. Ostergard a dinosaur. They tried to make him irrelevant. He’s not irrelevant. I wish that ten years ago, when I was brutally assaulted by a seemingly well-meaning surgeon, I had access to his papers. Ostergard knew the ramifications of using mesh. He tried to warn everyone yet he was laughed at. He is not laughed at all that much anymore. More enlightened surgeons are “getting it.” But, despite his warnings, Ostergard could not stop that money making machine from rolling out all over the U.S. and on into the world.
My surgeon was just “trying to help.” She had a miracle cure for me. “Hey,” she said, “it is the ‘gold standard,’” but she never mentioned what it was made of. I had the surgery because I trusted her. Then I trusted her while she operated on me unsuccessfully three more times to cut here, snip there—never removing it.
I finally found a real surgeon competent enough to remove this stuff. He likened it to removing gum from hair, or rebar from concrete. That eight-hour surgery has done little for my pain, but it’s out. My surgical report reads like someone has been brutally assaulted.
I no longer attend soccer games or honor assemblies. Once I was extremely active, now I lay in bed most of the time—only occasionally going out with my trusty walker. This is the face of mesh. It’s not too pretty. My kids will never have what I worked so very hard for them to have: A normal childhood, that’s all.
Now I ask you  one more time. Could you do this to someone you love?
I can’t wait for the little pricks answer.

*(Not her real name)