Vaginal mesh implant sufferers demanding removals on the NHS
A Belfast woman suffering from serious medical issues as a result of a vaginal mesh implant has gone public about the issues women in Northern Ireland are enduring.
Mary McLaughlin (53) is a former teaching fellow at the University of London and is currently on leave of absence from Queen's University, Belfast, where she is studying for her PhD.
"I am one of the hundreds of women who had a surgery I thought had worked. For 10 years I would have said it was a successful surgery. I knew nothing about the problems with the mesh implants," she wrote in a letter to the Belfast Telegraph.
Vaginal mesh implants are used to treat issues like pelvic organ prolapses and stress incontinence, conditions that are often brought about by childbirth.
Between 2007/08 and 2015/16 a total of 5,575 mesh implants were carried out in Northern Ireland - and now some of the women who had the operation are experiencing chronic debilitating pain from the procedure.
"Many women have suffered pain for years. Their physicians have either failed to identify or failed to inform them the mesh implant is the most likely cause of a broad spectrum of symptoms.
"We have already watched as healthy organs have fallen into dysfunction," she said.
"Organs such as the bowel and the bladder may be further harmed to the point of total dysfunction if our surgeons do not fully remove the mesh implants inside us.
"We are mainly middle-aged and elderly women who feel written off by the powers that be.
"We maintain it is our right to demand full mesh removal services on our public healthcare system."
She added that "the people in power" are failing to provide the services sufferers need.
Ms McLaughlin said that while surgeons in Northern Ireland have been trained to insert the controversial implants, no one here has the expertise to fully remove them after they have become embedded in the body.
She said women are having to travel to London and pay privately to have the mesh implants removed.
A support group for sufferers has been set up on Facebook.
It now has more than 200 members.
Three members of the group - including Ms McLaughlin - met Sinn Fein MLAs Orlaithi Flynn and Caoimhe Archibald at Stormont yesterday to brief the politicians on the issue.
Afterwards, Ms Flynn said she and colleague Caoimhe Archibald would raise the mesh implants issue with the Department of Health as a matter of urgency.
"The physical and emotional pain these women have had to endure is terrible," she said after the meeting.