Tag Archives: dying

Treating a dying child made me reflect on my role as a paramedic

We arrived at the scene in an ambulance to see the usual collection of bystanders clustered around a body. It was a child. She was still alive. A pale grey face, mumbling and moaning, eyes half shut and flickering. There was blood pooling from a wound to the back of her head and one of her legs was facing the wrong way.

The five-year-old girl had been struck by a car. The driver hadn’t been speeding or driving recklessly. The road was quiet. She had been out on her scooter. Suddenly, with a child’s spontaneity, she rode her scooter off the pavement and onto the road. The driver didn’t have time to brake.

We started high-flow oxygen and inserted a plastic airway into her mouth to stop her tongue blocking her airway, taking extreme care not to move her head in case she had a spinal injury. A dressing was placed under her head and her leg was realigned to a neutral position to prevent further tissue damage. Although she was breathing and her lungs sounded normal, we placed a bag valve mask over her mouth.

I shone a light into the child’s eyes. The right pupil was fixed and dilated. I advised the rest of the team of my finding and a colleague started to cry as she knew it meant bad news.

When the helicopter arrived, the doctor administered anaesthetic drugs and passed a tube down the child’s throat to manually control her breathing.

At some point the parents arrived. I can’t remember when, but it was before the helicopter had landed. I remember the mother running up to our huddle of green paramedic shirts and seeing her daughter lying there, her hands clamping over her mouth in horror. I cannot begin to imagine what she was going through. Seeing your small child, grey, moaning, bleeding and unable to respond to you is something no parent should experience. We encouraged her to kneel next to her daughter’s head, hold her hand and keep talking to her. Even now, years later, I’m crying while typing this.

As the crescendo of the ascending helicopter became a distant clatter I reflected on the picturesque setting. This was a tranquil village – in complete contrast to the trauma that had unfolded at its centre.

In the post adrenaline-fuelled, great-team-work atmosphere we bantered with each other. There was dark, dark humour as we checked over our shoulders to make sure the bystanders were out of range. Lots of swearing and jokes that only paramedics remain hardened to. Each of us adding another layer of veneer to shield our bravado.

After a quick debrief back at base we were back on the road, dealing with all the usual mundane shit.

I thought I would be ok.

When I got home my seven-year-old wanted to dance with me in the kitchen while my wife was preparing dinner. I remembered how three short years ago he had been riding his green scooter around our neighbourhood, carefree and happy, jumping off curbs crying: “Watch me do this, watch me do this.”

During dinner I held his hands and remembered how I had held smaller hands a few hours earlier, my blue examination gloves sticky with blood.

I remember an anecdote about a city where the ambulance service went on strike. The police were called upon to fill the gap in emergency medical response. When someone dialled the emergency number they would turn up, throw the patient in the back of a police car, no matter how serious the condition, and rush them to hospital. It was reported that patient survival rates significantly increased during this period, which caused the public to question the utility of the ambulance service.

I was left with similar questions. Two ambulances and a helicopter didn’t make any real difference to the outcome for this little girl. We made a difference to the parents and the bystanders. For as long as we were still treating their child, they held on to the fragile hope that everything would be ok in the end.

I guess sometimes that’s the only difference you can make.

Some details have been changed.

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UK patients ‘suffering as they cannot afford assisted dying overseas’

Thousands of terminally ill people who want to travel abroad to end their life in specialist clinics can not afford the costs of doing so, leaving them to face often “painful and traumatic deaths at home”, according to a new report.

The study by the campaign group Dignity in Dying says the UK is outsourcing death to Dignitas – the assisted dying organisation in Switzerland – which only the better off can afford.

The study found that while more than half of Britons would consider travelling to abroad for an assisted death, only a quarter said they could afford the average £10,000 cost.

Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said the study “exposes the unacceptable reality that is faced by so many dying people in this country.

“By denying terminally ill people the option of an assisted death at home, we are not solving the problem, just outsourcing it to Switzerland – and dying people and their families are the ones paying the price.”

Assisted dying is illegal in the UK and Wootton said terminally ill people are spending their final months “overwhelmed by paperwork [and] being made to feel like criminals”.

She added: “Those that are unable to obtain an assisted death overseas can end up suffering painful and traumatic deaths at home or taking drastic measures to end their own lives. This is not how a civilised country should treat its dying citizens.”

The report is based on polling and in-depth interviews with three groups of people: those with a terminal illness who are considering an assisted death in Switzerland; those who have helped a loved one to have an assisted death in Switzerland; and those whose loved one considered an assisted death in Switzerland but died in the UK.

It found that those without enough money or family and friends to support them were unable to make the tip to assisted dying clinics.

Emil Prysak, 30, from London, said his mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which spread throughout her body. She initially ruled out Dignitas because of the cost involved, but later regretted it due to the pain and suffering she experienced at the end of her life.

Prysak said: “Because of the complexity of her illness, my mum was suffering all the way to the end … She was looking at us, saying ‘Why can I not die? If I had known it was going to be like this I would have gone to Switzerland’ … My mum didn’t want that suffering and that’s haunting me. It will haunt me to the end of my life.”

Caroline Villar, 39 from County Down, was also interviewed. She said when her mother, Margaret, received a terminal diagnosis of cancer, she considered an assisted death in Switzerland but feared the legal implications for her family if they helped her. She ended up dying in pain at home in Northern Ireland.

Villar said: “I think most people believe that modern medicine will stop you suffering, but my mum was crying out for painkillers at the end, and they couldn’t increase the dose because they said if they gave her any more, it would push her over into death. We were all happy for that to happen, to finally end her suffering, but they couldn’t do it.”

Kit Malthouse, the Conservative MP for North West Hampshire, wrote in a foreword for the report that it “shines a light where too few policy makers are willing to look.”

“We must ask whether these terrible experiences can truly be justified by a false dichotomy between dominion over our lives and protection of the vulnerable, a premise long-disproved,” he said.

“The evidence that we need change is overwhelming. It’s time that the UK stopped outsourcing its compassion and began listening to dying people who want and need the most basic choice they will ever face.”

UK patients ‘suffering as they cannot afford assisted dying overseas’

Thousands of terminally ill people who want to travel abroad to end their life in specialist clinics can not afford the costs of doing so, leaving them to face often “painful and traumatic deaths at home”, according to a new report.

The study by the campaign group Dignity in Dying says the UK is outsourcing death to Dignitas – the assisted dying organisation in Switzerland – which only the better off can afford.

The study found that while more than half of Britons would consider travelling to abroad for an assisted death, only a quarter said they could afford the average £10,000 cost.

Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said the study “exposes the unacceptable reality that is faced by so many dying people in this country.

“By denying terminally ill people the option of an assisted death at home, we are not solving the problem, just outsourcing it to Switzerland – and dying people and their families are the ones paying the price.”

Assisted dying is illegal in the UK and Wootton said terminally ill people are spending their final months “overwhelmed by paperwork [and] being made to feel like criminals”.

She added: “Those that are unable to obtain an assisted death overseas can end up suffering painful and traumatic deaths at home or taking drastic measures to end their own lives. This is not how a civilised country should treat its dying citizens.”

The report is based on polling and in-depth interviews with three groups of people: those with a terminal illness who are considering an assisted death in Switzerland; those who have helped a loved one to have an assisted death in Switzerland; and those whose loved one considered an assisted death in Switzerland but died in the UK.

It found that those without enough money or family and friends to support them were unable to make the tip to assisted dying clinics.

Emil Prysak, 30, from London, said his mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which spread throughout her body. She initially ruled out Dignitas because of the cost involved, but later regretted it due to the pain and suffering she experienced at the end of her life.

Prysak said: “Because of the complexity of her illness, my mum was suffering all the way to the end … She was looking at us, saying ‘Why can I not die? If I had known it was going to be like this I would have gone to Switzerland’ … My mum didn’t want that suffering and that’s haunting me. It will haunt me to the end of my life.”

Caroline Villar, 39 from County Down, was also interviewed. She said when her mother, Margaret, received a terminal diagnosis of cancer, she considered an assisted death in Switzerland but feared the legal implications for her family if they helped her. She ended up dying in pain at home in Northern Ireland.

Villar said: “I think most people believe that modern medicine will stop you suffering, but my mum was crying out for painkillers at the end, and they couldn’t increase the dose because they said if they gave her any more, it would push her over into death. We were all happy for that to happen, to finally end her suffering, but they couldn’t do it.”

Kit Malthouse, the Conservative MP for North West Hampshire, wrote in a foreword for the report that it “shines a light where too few policy makers are willing to look.”

“We must ask whether these terrible experiences can truly be justified by a false dichotomy between dominion over our lives and protection of the vulnerable, a premise long-disproved,” he said.

“The evidence that we need change is overwhelming. It’s time that the UK stopped outsourcing its compassion and began listening to dying people who want and need the most basic choice they will ever face.”

UK patients ‘suffering as they cannot afford assisted dying overseas’

Thousands of terminally ill people who want to travel abroad to end their life in specialist clinics can not afford the costs of doing so, leaving them to face often “painful and traumatic deaths at home”, according to a new report.

The study by the campaign group Dignity in Dying says the UK is outsourcing death to Dignitas – the assisted dying organisation in Switzerland – which only the better off can afford.

The study found that while more than half of Britons would consider travelling to abroad for an assisted death, only a quarter said they could afford the average £10,000 cost.

Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said the study “exposes the unacceptable reality that is faced by so many dying people in this country.

“By denying terminally ill people the option of an assisted death at home, we are not solving the problem, just outsourcing it to Switzerland – and dying people and their families are the ones paying the price.”

Assisted dying is illegal in the UK and Wootton said terminally ill people are spending their final months “overwhelmed by paperwork [and] being made to feel like criminals”.

She added: “Those that are unable to obtain an assisted death overseas can end up suffering painful and traumatic deaths at home or taking drastic measures to end their own lives. This is not how a civilised country should treat its dying citizens.”

The report is based on polling and in-depth interviews with three groups of people: those with a terminal illness who are considering an assisted death in Switzerland; those who have helped a loved one to have an assisted death in Switzerland; and those whose loved one considered an assisted death in Switzerland but died in the UK.

It found that those without enough money or family and friends to support them were unable to make the tip to assisted dying clinics.

Emil Prysak, 30, from London, said his mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which spread throughout her body. She initially ruled out Dignitas because of the cost involved, but later regretted it due to the pain and suffering she experienced at the end of her life.

Prysak said: “Because of the complexity of her illness, my mum was suffering all the way to the end … She was looking at us, saying ‘Why can I not die? If I had known it was going to be like this I would have gone to Switzerland’ … My mum didn’t want that suffering and that’s haunting me. It will haunt me to the end of my life.”

Caroline Villar, 39 from County Down, was also interviewed. She said when her mother, Margaret, received a terminal diagnosis of cancer, she considered an assisted death in Switzerland but feared the legal implications for her family if they helped her. She ended up dying in pain at home in Northern Ireland.

Villar said: “I think most people believe that modern medicine will stop you suffering, but my mum was crying out for painkillers at the end, and they couldn’t increase the dose because they said if they gave her any more, it would push her over into death. We were all happy for that to happen, to finally end her suffering, but they couldn’t do it.”

Kit Malthouse, the Conservative MP for North West Hampshire, wrote in a foreword for the report that it “shines a light where too few policy makers are willing to look.”

“We must ask whether these terrible experiences can truly be justified by a false dichotomy between dominion over our lives and protection of the vulnerable, a premise long-disproved,” he said.

“The evidence that we need change is overwhelming. It’s time that the UK stopped outsourcing its compassion and began listening to dying people who want and need the most basic choice they will ever face.”

UK patients ‘suffering as they cannot afford assisted dying overseas’

Thousands of terminally ill people who want to travel abroad to end their life in specialist clinics can not afford the costs of doing so, leaving them to face often “painful and traumatic deaths at home”, according to a new report.

The study by the campaign group Dignity in Dying says the UK is outsourcing death to Dignitas – the assisted dying organisation in Switzerland – which only the better off can afford.

The study found that while more than half of Britons would consider travelling to abroad for an assisted death, only a quarter said they could afford the average £10,000 cost.

Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said the study “exposes the unacceptable reality that is faced by so many dying people in this country.

“By denying terminally ill people the option of an assisted death at home, we are not solving the problem, just outsourcing it to Switzerland – and dying people and their families are the ones paying the price.”

Assisted dying is illegal in the UK and Wootton said terminally ill people are spending their final months “overwhelmed by paperwork [and] being made to feel like criminals”.

She added: “Those that are unable to obtain an assisted death overseas can end up suffering painful and traumatic deaths at home or taking drastic measures to end their own lives. This is not how a civilised country should treat its dying citizens.”

The report is based on polling and in-depth interviews with three groups of people: those with a terminal illness who are considering an assisted death in Switzerland; those who have helped a loved one to have an assisted death in Switzerland; and those whose loved one considered an assisted death in Switzerland but died in the UK.

It found that those without enough money or family and friends to support them were unable to make the tip to assisted dying clinics.

Emil Prysak, 30, from London, said his mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which spread throughout her body. She initially ruled out Dignitas because of the cost involved, but later regretted it due to the pain and suffering she experienced at the end of her life.

Prysak said: “Because of the complexity of her illness, my mum was suffering all the way to the end … She was looking at us, saying ‘Why can I not die? If I had known it was going to be like this I would have gone to Switzerland’ … My mum didn’t want that suffering and that’s haunting me. It will haunt me to the end of my life.”

Caroline Villar, 39 from County Down, was also interviewed. She said when her mother, Margaret, received a terminal diagnosis of cancer, she considered an assisted death in Switzerland but feared the legal implications for her family if they helped her. She ended up dying in pain at home in Northern Ireland.

Villar said: “I think most people believe that modern medicine will stop you suffering, but my mum was crying out for painkillers at the end, and they couldn’t increase the dose because they said if they gave her any more, it would push her over into death. We were all happy for that to happen, to finally end her suffering, but they couldn’t do it.”

Kit Malthouse, the Conservative MP for North West Hampshire, wrote in a foreword for the report that it “shines a light where too few policy makers are willing to look.”

“We must ask whether these terrible experiences can truly be justified by a false dichotomy between dominion over our lives and protection of the vulnerable, a premise long-disproved,” he said.

“The evidence that we need change is overwhelming. It’s time that the UK stopped outsourcing its compassion and began listening to dying people who want and need the most basic choice they will ever face.”

UK patients ‘suffering as they cannot afford assisted dying overseas’

Thousands of terminally ill people who want to travel abroad to end their life in specialist clinics can not afford the costs of doing so, leaving them to face often “painful and traumatic deaths at home”, according to a new report.

The study by the campaign group Dignity in Dying says the UK is outsourcing death to Dignitas – the assisted dying organisation in Switzerland – which only the better off can afford.

The study found that while more than half of Britons would consider travelling to abroad for an assisted death, only a quarter said they could afford the average £10,000 cost.

Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said the study “exposes the unacceptable reality that is faced by so many dying people in this country.

“By denying terminally ill people the option of an assisted death at home, we are not solving the problem, just outsourcing it to Switzerland – and dying people and their families are the ones paying the price.”

Assisted dying is illegal in the UK and Wootton said terminally ill people are spending their final months “overwhelmed by paperwork [and] being made to feel like criminals”.

She added: “Those that are unable to obtain an assisted death overseas can end up suffering painful and traumatic deaths at home or taking drastic measures to end their own lives. This is not how a civilised country should treat its dying citizens.”

The report is based on polling and in-depth interviews with three groups of people: those with a terminal illness who are considering an assisted death in Switzerland; those who have helped a loved one to have an assisted death in Switzerland; and those whose loved one considered an assisted death in Switzerland but died in the UK.

It found that those without enough money or family and friends to support them were unable to make the tip to assisted dying clinics.

Emil Prysak, 30, from London, said his mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which spread throughout her body. She initially ruled out Dignitas because of the cost involved, but later regretted it due to the pain and suffering she experienced at the end of her life.

Prysak said: “Because of the complexity of her illness, my mum was suffering all the way to the end … She was looking at us, saying ‘Why can I not die? If I had known it was going to be like this I would have gone to Switzerland’ … My mum didn’t want that suffering and that’s haunting me. It will haunt me to the end of my life.”

Caroline Villar, 39 from County Down, was also interviewed. She said when her mother, Margaret, received a terminal diagnosis of cancer, she considered an assisted death in Switzerland but feared the legal implications for her family if they helped her. She ended up dying in pain at home in Northern Ireland.

Villar said: “I think most people believe that modern medicine will stop you suffering, but my mum was crying out for painkillers at the end, and they couldn’t increase the dose because they said if they gave her any more, it would push her over into death. We were all happy for that to happen, to finally end her suffering, but they couldn’t do it.”

Kit Malthouse, the Conservative MP for North West Hampshire, wrote in a foreword for the report that it “shines a light where too few policy makers are willing to look.”

“We must ask whether these terrible experiences can truly be justified by a false dichotomy between dominion over our lives and protection of the vulnerable, a premise long-disproved,” he said.

“The evidence that we need change is overwhelming. It’s time that the UK stopped outsourcing its compassion and began listening to dying people who want and need the most basic choice they will ever face.”

UK patients ‘suffering as they cannot afford assisted dying overseas’

Thousands of terminally ill people who want to travel abroad to end their life in specialist clinics can not afford the costs of doing so, leaving them to face often “painful and traumatic deaths at home”, according to a new report.

The study by the campaign group Dignity in Dying says the UK is outsourcing death to Dignitas – the assisted dying organisation in Switzerland – which only the better off can afford.

The study found that while more than half of Britons would consider travelling to abroad for an assisted death, only a quarter said they could afford the average £10,000 cost.

Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said the study “exposes the unacceptable reality that is faced by so many dying people in this country.

“By denying terminally ill people the option of an assisted death at home, we are not solving the problem, just outsourcing it to Switzerland – and dying people and their families are the ones paying the price.”

Assisted dying is illegal in the UK and Wootton said terminally ill people are spending their final months “overwhelmed by paperwork [and] being made to feel like criminals”.

She added: “Those that are unable to obtain an assisted death overseas can end up suffering painful and traumatic deaths at home or taking drastic measures to end their own lives. This is not how a civilised country should treat its dying citizens.”

The report is based on polling and in-depth interviews with three groups of people: those with a terminal illness who are considering an assisted death in Switzerland; those who have helped a loved one to have an assisted death in Switzerland; and those whose loved one considered an assisted death in Switzerland but died in the UK.

It found that those without enough money or family and friends to support them were unable to make the tip to assisted dying clinics.

Emil Prysak, 30, from London, said his mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which spread throughout her body. She initially ruled out Dignitas because of the cost involved, but later regretted it due to the pain and suffering she experienced at the end of her life.

Prysak said: “Because of the complexity of her illness, my mum was suffering all the way to the end … She was looking at us, saying ‘Why can I not die? If I had known it was going to be like this I would have gone to Switzerland’ … My mum didn’t want that suffering and that’s haunting me. It will haunt me to the end of my life.”

Caroline Villar, 39 from County Down, was also interviewed. She said when her mother, Margaret, received a terminal diagnosis of cancer, she considered an assisted death in Switzerland but feared the legal implications for her family if they helped her. She ended up dying in pain at home in Northern Ireland.

Villar said: “I think most people believe that modern medicine will stop you suffering, but my mum was crying out for painkillers at the end, and they couldn’t increase the dose because they said if they gave her any more, it would push her over into death. We were all happy for that to happen, to finally end her suffering, but they couldn’t do it.”

Kit Malthouse, the Conservative MP for North West Hampshire, wrote in a foreword for the report that it “shines a light where too few policy makers are willing to look.”

“We must ask whether these terrible experiences can truly be justified by a false dichotomy between dominion over our lives and protection of the vulnerable, a premise long-disproved,” he said.

“The evidence that we need change is overwhelming. It’s time that the UK stopped outsourcing its compassion and began listening to dying people who want and need the most basic choice they will ever face.”

Vaginal mesh implants: ‘I really thought I was dying’

Six years ago, Carolyn Churchill, 57, from near Pontypridd in Wales, was in a long-term relationship, worked as a chef, and spent hours each week walking with her dogs and looking after her granddaughter’s pony. She was busy and content, but was bothered by stress incontinence, which affects roughly 10% of women.

“Never knowing when you’re going out if you’re going to wee yourself. It really got to the stage where it was embarrassing,” she recalls.

She was referred to a specialist who advised a TVT mesh implant, which Churchill believed would be a quick fix. As the epidural wore off after surgery, though, she immediately felt something was amiss. “I was in absolute agony, but they wouldn’t listen to me and made me feel like some sort of baby, and that it was normal,” she says. “If I could have walked to the A&E that night, I would’ve begged them to take it out.”

Churchill experienced “ripping, burning” pains in her side and legs, numbness in the soles of her feet and suddenly found it impossible to bend over. Three months after the initial surgery, she had to leave her job. “It’s very difficult to explain, particularly if your boss is a man,” she says.

For months she could not contemplate sex with her partner of 14 years.

“When we actually managed it, my partner said ‘What the hell is that?’” she recalls. Churchill discovered the mesh had eroded the wall of her vagina and poked through. “I was horrified,” she says.

She had surgery under general anaesthetic to cut away the protruding mesh, but her other symptoms did not improve. Doctors appeared reluctant to accept that the implant could be to blame, though.

“I was sent for hip X-rays, I was sent for physiotherapy, which made the pain worse. They offered me mental health counselling,” she says. “They even sent me to the GUM [sexual health] clinic for counselling on having sex. I said, ‘It’s not that I don’t want to …’.”

Cancer was investigated as a possible explanation for persistent bleeding, she says. “I was terrified because I lost my sister to cancer, and my mother. I kept thinking, ‘I have got it but they can’t find it’. I really thought I was dying.”

She describes the prevailing attitude as “there’s nothing wrong with the mesh – it’s you”.

When she asked if she could have the mesh taken out, she was told this was not guaranteed to stop the pain – and that removal carried its own risk of complications. “It was hell trying to make that decision,” she says.

Churchill finally had her mesh fully removed in May 2016, a major surgical procedure with a lengthy recovery period.

Today, she feels better physically, but remains traumatised and says her life has been permanently altered by her experience. She talks of lost time with her grandchildren and how caring for her 93-year-old father has been a struggle. Her relationship broke down and she is unsure if she will work again.

Who does she blame for her experience? “I think the government should take responsibility,” says Churchill. “When there was all the problems with breast implants they stood up and said it would never happen again. And all that time, it was already happening to thousands of us. I want someone to stand up and say sorry for what they’ve done to us.”

If you are a woman who has experienced problems with a mesh implant, these can be reported to the MHRA. The British Society of Urogynaecology has compiled a list of units with experience in treating mesh complications.

Vaginal mesh implants: ‘I really thought I was dying’

Six years ago, Carolyn Churchill, 57, from near Pontypridd in Wales, was in a long-term relationship, worked as a chef, and spent hours each week walking with her dogs and looking after her granddaughter’s pony. She was busy and content, but was bothered by stress incontinence, which affects roughly 10% of women.

“Never knowing when you’re going out if you’re going to wee yourself. It really got to the stage where it was embarrassing,” she recalls.

She was referred to a specialist who advised a TVT mesh implant, which Churchill believed would be a quick fix. As the epidural wore off after surgery, though, she immediately felt something was amiss. “I was in absolute agony, but they wouldn’t listen to me and made me feel like some sort of baby, and that it was normal,” she says. “If I could have walked to the A&E that night, I would’ve begged them to take it out.”

Churchill experienced “ripping, burning” pains in her side and legs, numbness in the soles of her feet and suddenly found it impossible to bend over. Three months after the initial surgery, she had to leave her job. “It’s very difficult to explain, particularly if your boss is a man,” she says.

For months she could not contemplate sex with her partner of 14 years.

“When we actually managed it, my partner said ‘What the hell is that?’” she recalls. Churchill discovered the mesh had eroded the wall of her vagina and poked through. “I was horrified,” she says.

She had surgery under general anaesthetic to cut away the protruding mesh, but her other symptoms did not improve. Doctors appeared reluctant to accept that the implant could be to blame, though.

“I was sent for hip X-rays, I was sent for physiotherapy, which made the pain worse. They offered me mental health counselling,” she says. “They even sent me to the GUM [sexual health] clinic for counselling on having sex. I said, ‘It’s not that I don’t want to …’.”

Cancer was investigated as a possible explanation for persistent bleeding, she says. “I was terrified because I lost my sister to cancer, and my mother. I kept thinking, ‘I have got it but they can’t find it’. I really thought I was dying.”

She describes the prevailing attitude as “there’s nothing wrong with the mesh – it’s you”.

When she asked if she could have the mesh taken out, she was told this was not guaranteed to stop the pain – and that removal carried its own risk of complications. “It was hell trying to make that decision,” she says.

Churchill finally had her mesh fully removed in May 2016, a major surgical procedure with a lengthy recovery period.

Today, she feels better physically, but remains traumatised and says her life has been permanently altered by her experience. She talks of lost time with her grandchildren and how caring for her 93-year-old father has been a struggle. Her relationship broke down and she is unsure if she will work again.

Who does she blame for her experience? “I think the government should take responsibility,” says Churchill. “When there was all the problems with breast implants they stood up and said it would never happen again. And all that time, it was already happening to thousands of us. I want someone to stand up and say sorry for what they’ve done to us.”

If you are a woman who has experienced problems with a mesh implant, these can be reported to the MHRA. The British Society of Urogynaecology has compiled a list of units with experience in treating mesh complications.

Vaginal mesh implants: ‘I really thought I was dying’

Six years ago, Carolyn Churchill, 57, from near Pontypridd in Wales, was in a long-term relationship, worked as a chef, and spent hours each week walking with her dogs and looking after her granddaughter’s pony. She was busy and content, but was bothered by stress incontinence, which affects roughly 10% of women.

“Never knowing when you’re going out if you’re going to wee yourself. It really got to the stage where it was embarrassing,” she recalls.

She was referred to a specialist who advised a TVT mesh implant, which Churchill believed would be a quick fix. As the epidural wore off after surgery, though, she immediately felt something was amiss. “I was in absolute agony, but they wouldn’t listen to me and made me feel like some sort of baby, and that it was normal,” she says. “If I could have walked to the A&E that night, I would’ve begged them to take it out.”

Churchill experienced “ripping, burning” pains in her side and legs, numbness in the soles of her feet and suddenly found it impossible to bend over. Three months after the initial surgery, she had to leave her job. “It’s very difficult to explain, particularly if your boss is a man,” she says.

For months she could not contemplate sex with her partner of 14 years.

“When we actually managed it, my partner said ‘What the hell is that?’” she recalls. Churchill discovered the mesh had eroded the wall of her vagina and poked through. “I was horrified,” she says.

She had surgery under general anaesthetic to cut away the protruding mesh, but her other symptoms did not improve. Doctors appeared reluctant to accept that the implant could be to blame, though.

“I was sent for hip X-rays, I was sent for physiotherapy, which made the pain worse. They offered me mental health counselling,” she says. “They even sent me to the GUM [sexual health] clinic for counselling on having sex. I said, ‘It’s not that I don’t want to …’.”

Cancer was investigated as a possible explanation for persistent bleeding, she says. “I was terrified because I lost my sister to cancer, and my mother. I kept thinking, ‘I have got it but they can’t find it’. I really thought I was dying.”

She describes the prevailing attitude as “there’s nothing wrong with the mesh – it’s you”.

When she asked if she could have the mesh taken out, she was told this was not guaranteed to stop the pain – and that removal carried its own risk of complications. “It was hell trying to make that decision,” she says.

Churchill finally had her mesh fully removed in May 2016, a major surgical procedure with a lengthy recovery period.

Today, she feels better physically, but remains traumatised and says her life has been permanently altered by her experience. She talks of lost time with her grandchildren and how caring for her 93-year-old father has been a struggle. Her relationship broke down and she is unsure if she will work again.

Who does she blame for her experience? “I think the government should take responsibility,” says Churchill. “When there was all the problems with breast implants they stood up and said it would never happen again. And all that time, it was already happening to thousands of us. I want someone to stand up and say sorry for what they’ve done to us.”

If you are a woman who has experienced problems with a mesh implant, these can be reported to the MHRA. The British Society of Urogynaecology has compiled a list of units with experience in treating mesh complications.