A Wiltshire-based woman, whose life was changed forever by mesh surgery when only a teenager, is sharing her story in a bid to raise awareness of its risks.

Chloe Thurston, now 22, was just 15 when she underwent rectopexy surgery for a suspected internal bowel prolapse. The surgery left her in debilitating pain and eventually stopped her bowel functioning normally. Now Ms Thurston wants everyone to be aware of the damage mesh can cause.

“I started experiencing ovarian problems and really bad period pain at 13,” she said. “After an X-ray revealed I was constipated, I was referred to a surgeon specialising in bowel surgery who diagnosed an internal prolapse.” She was referred from there for a proctogram to test the function of her bowel before eventually having mesh surgery in December 2013.

Ms Thurston, who is originally from Newbury, said: “I was young, I was anxious, I didn’t really understand what this all meant, but I trusted the medical team and assumed that whatever they recommended would make me feel better.”    

After the surgery, increasing bleeding and pain left her unable to return to school. But, when she visited a hospital emergency department, her symptoms were dismissed as anxiety-related.

Eventually, aged 16, Ms Thurston was readmitted to hospital as an adult patient for investigative surgery. Initially, she was told she needed further internal prolapse surgery, but two subsequent surgeons disagreed.

“The second surgeon believed further surgery would cause more harm, and the third said I should never have had the surgery in the first place,” she said. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”

“I was young, I was anxious, I didn’t really understand what this all meant, but I trusted the medical team and assumed that whatever they recommended would make me feel better.”

Chloe Thurston

In August 2019, Ms Thurston had keyhole surgery that revealed scarring in her bowel as well as a screw that had been inexplicably left inside during the surgery nearly 3 years before.

Ms Thurston has been left unable to go to the toilet naturally and with lower back pain.  She has to perform a painful two-hour procedure to irrigate her bowel every night. Doctors say her only alternative is a colostomy bag, which she doesn’t want.

“I try to stay positive, but some days it is impossible,” she said. “It’s hard going about my day knowing every evening must end with me inflicting pain on myself.

“While I do work, and my employer has been hugely supportive, there are things I can’t do that other 22-year-olds can - like go to festivals or go on holiday with friends or my partner, because it’s too dangerous for me now. I have had sepsis twice. I have to be careful regarding what I eat and drink and, while I used to be sporty and active, my condition has slowed me down.”

Ms Thurston sought legal advice and instructed Thompsons Solicitors to investigate a medical negligence claim.

Sukhdev Gill, of Thompsons Solicitors, who is representing Ms Thurston, said: “Facing such intimate surgery can be daunting, whatever your age. But Chloe was young and vulnerable, which makes her experience even more distressing. You rely on medical staff to give you the right information, to make clear the risks and ensure you’re getting the best possible advice.

“Thompsons represents more than 400 people who all have their own mesh horror stories to tell, and I’m sure there are many more out there.

“We are committed to continuing the fight against mesh use and the irreparable damage it can cause, and to helping its victims hold those responsible accountable.”