A teaching assistant who remains in significant pain as a result of an operation more than 13 years ago has talked about the risks of vaginal mesh implants.

Beverley Burrows, a 51-year-old teaching assistant from Wrexham, began suffering from mild stress urinary incontinence after childbirth. Her GP referred her to a consultant, who suggested she do exercises to strengthen her pelvic muscles.

The exercises failed to help and, after several meetings, the consultant recommended an operation to insert tension-free vaginal tape (TVT) to support her urethra. The mother-of-three had the operation in 2006, and the symptoms stopped for a couple of years.

However, in 2008, the urinary incontinence returned and worsened, causing Beverley significant pain and mobility issues. She also developed a series of urinary tract infections. Medical staff suggested it was nerve damage and prescribed strong medication, but it did little to stem her pain.

“When my consultant began discussing surgery with me in 2006, the word ‘mesh’ was never used,” she said.

Beverley Burrows, a teaching assistant from Wrexham
Beverley Burrows, who remains in pain after receiving mesh implants

“They referred to it as a ‘sling’, that would be a ‘quick fix’. I was also never told that it would be permanent or that it could cause me such dreadful pain.

“I was made to feel like a nuisance by my GP and medical staff when I mentioned the pain I was in. They would just tell me to do some exercises or put me on medication. I was also given Botox four times to treat my overactive bladder. They never made much difference.

“After years of pain, one doctor simply told me to ‘live with it’.”

It was only in 2017 – more than a decade after the surgery – that she became aware that her mesh implant may have been the cause of her pain after hearing about the campaign group Sling the Mesh, which is raising awareness of the dangers of mesh.

“After reading about Sling the Mesh, it all became clear,” she said. “I was able to speak with thousands of other women who have had their lives radically affected just like me.”

"We are campaigning alongside Sling the Mesh to highlight the impact of mesh and ensure its use is highly restricted, that it is a last resort so that more people don’t suffer in the way that Beverley has."

Sukhdev Gill Clinical negligence specialist

Beverley sought private corrective surgery to repair the damage caused by the implant. The procedure left her critically ill and she ended up in intensive care. She was in hospital for three weeks, during which time she developed a haematoma that needed further surgery to remove.

“Even when I said to medical staff that mesh was the cause, they played it down and said it was nothing but sensationalism,” she said. “In the end, I had to take matters into my own hands and go private to get rid of the implant once and for all. This was a huge strain for me and my family, but I felt like there was nothing else I could do.

While Beverley has recovered from the life-threatening conditions, she remains unable to work at the school in Ellesmere Port and struggles with walking long distances, as well as housework and driving. She has since turned to medical negligence experts, Thompsons Solicitors, for help with a compensation claim.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same again,” she said. “My concerns were repeatedly ignored and no one once told me that mesh could have been the cause. I feel like I’ve lost 13 years of my life.”

Beverley is now an active Sling the Mesh member, welcoming new members online and allowing them to share their knowledge with each other.

“It has given me a renewed sense of purpose, helping those in need, but I know it doesn’t stop here,” she said. “There are almost certainly more people out there who have been injured by mesh. I’d encourage them to contact Sling the Mesh to realise they are not alone and to contact Thompsons Solicitors to see if they have a claim for what they have been through, and everyone should join the call to get these implants banned completely.”

Sukhdev Gill, of Thompsons Solicitors, added: “Beverley has suffered for more than a decade because of the implant in 2006. Sadly, her story isn’t rare and there are thousands of women out there who have been subject to debilitating pain due to mesh.

“We are campaigning alongside Sling the Mesh to highlight the impact of mesh and ensure its use is highly restricted, that it is a last resort so that more people don’t suffer in the way that Beverley has.”