“It was described as such a simple operation, day surgery, with little or no complications so I went for it,” said Mrs Cook, 60, of Royston.
Straight away there were problems. She couldn’t empty her bladder so was sent home with a catheter bag and on day two shown how to self-catheterise.
Within three days things sorted themselves out, but as the weeks progressed she had one urinary tract infection after another, having to take stronger and stronger antibiotics.
She had extreme stomach cramps which felt like period pains 24/7.
“My periods had ended years before. It was intense I couldn’t stand up straight and I was often doubled over. I had pains going down the front of my leg.
“I was on strong painkillers and was in such a state I had 12 weeks off work with it. I was supposed to be off just 2 weeks.
“I am a strong woman but this stopped me in my tracks.” she said.
She went back to see her surgeon who said he had never heard of such pains but by July 2013 – more than a year later – Anne was in such agony she pleaded with him to do something about it.
“I later met a woman through Sling The Mesh Facebook group who had been given a mesh operation on the same day as me, with the same surgeon, who was also told at around the same time as me in follow up consultations that she was the only person he had seen suffering,” she said.
“He really made us feel like we were the only ones and we were exaggerating our suffering.”
In the meantime the surgeon referred her to a pain consultant who told her to stop taking her medication because the pain would go away by itself.
“My surgeon said he would do an exploratory operation to see what was going on and came back with the answer – he told me I had interstitial cystitis – the treatment for that is Amitriptyline.
“By this time I also had urge incontinence.”
Then in December 2013 there was a breakthrough – her son’s mother in law read an article in the Daily Mail about a woman from Peterborough who was suffering pains and was in a wheelchair since having the TVT operation.
Google life saver
“She asked if that was the operation I had. I realised it was and immediately got Googling.
“I couldn’t believe it – there were hundreds of people out there suffering and I had been made to think I was the only one.
“My surgeon made me feel it was nothing and I was making up the pain. Prior to that I had given up googling “TVT operations gone wrong” as I kept drawing a blank and it was so upsetting.”
She made an appointment with surgeon Sohier Elneil who was quoted in the newspaper article – one of only a handful of surgeons in the world who are skilled in TVT removal – and by January 2014 had a consultation with her where finally she received the news that it was indeed the mesh sling which was making her so ill.
“I cried with relief. In May 2014 the sling mesh was removed at University College Hospital in London.
High dose pain killers
“The procedure left me incontinent so in April 2015 I went back to Miss Elneil and had a Burch colposupsension operation to fix the problem.
“I still get terrible stomach pains though and take a really high dose of pain killer at night so I can sleep.
“Having the TVT operation was the worst decision of my life and I would definitely never recommend anyone else to have one.
“Where I should have had one operation to help with my incontinence I ended up having four and using all those NHS resources”.