Karen, a school welfare officer, said: “Within a month of this operation it felt like Id got a set of teeth inside me, the sharp pain was unbearable.
“I was so fit, always in different exercise groups, weightlifting, step classes, yoga, I did the moonwalk for charity. Now it’s painful to walk more than a few hundred yards. I can’t walk fast, never mind run.
Fifty-year-old Karen, who has a 21-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son, said her life was turned on its head because of a 20-minute day case operation, a “simple” fix to an embarrassing women’s problem – incontinence or prolapse – often suffered after childbirth.
Around 1 in 3 women get it at some point in their lives and the problem is on the rise among younger women due to the popularity of high-impact exercise classes and long-distance running that put intense pressure on the pelvic floor.
The operation fits a mesh sling to support weakened muscles and 13,000 women get it done on the NHS every year.
“After my second son I started wetting a bit, like a lot of mums I got on with it and ignored it but gradually it got worse,” Karen said.
“I went to my GP and was referred to hospital where they offered this operation, they said it might not work, or might damage my bladder, I may want to go to the toilet more. They said the word erosion but I had no idea what it meant and didn’t query it as the surgeon didn’t seem concerned.
“They said the worst that could happen is it wouldn’t work.
“I had no idea this operation was done blind – it is the only operation where a surgeon uses guesswork.
“I had no idea they were putting in a piece of plastic mesh and no idea it was permanent. I thought it was some kind of body friendly material or could be taken out if I didn’t get on with it.”
So in 2009, Karen signed up for the TVT mesh sling but within months the plastic had cut through her vaginal walls .
“That that is what they mean by erosion. A piece of it was trimmed away but the pain never went away and a few years later it cut through again and now it is difficult to go to the toilet.
“Over the years my legs hurt to exercise, so I stopped exercising.
“I was a self employed hairdresser but switched to being a healthcare assistant at a hospital, but I couldn’t do the shifts as it hurt my legs too much, so yet again switched jobs to a school welfare officer.
“It feels like somebody has put concrete in my shoes, my calves and thighs are like somebody has punched them and my legs have heavy toothache. It is liked somebody ripped my life away from me.
“I blamed hormones, age, I never thought about the mesh, until I found a support group called Sling The Mesh and found loads of other women suffering the same things as me.
“My GP knew nothing about mesh problems but referred me straight away to a removal specialist called Suzy Elneil in London. I’m due to have it removed on April 12.
“I’m angry about what’s happened to me . I just want to try to get my life back.”