A 48-year-old Gorey woman who lived with “constant pain” after having vaginal mesh inserted for prolapse in 2013 is virtually “pain-free” since undergoing mesh removal surgery in America.
A series of successful fundraisers and a personal loan allowed Margaret Bolger to raise the €25,000 needed to travel to a specialist clinic in St Louis, Missouri for mesh removal surgery. The surgery has put an end to the many years of excruciating pain and infections experienced by Margaret, who was forced to leave her job and “put her life on hold” as a result of her health issues.
Just days after returning home to Ireland post surgery, Margaret said she is pain-free.
“It is unbelievable. The mesh pain is gone. There’s surgery pain, which is to be expected because there is a six to eight week recovery period, but the back pain and leg pain I’ve lived with continuously is gone,” she said. “The surgery gave me instant relief.”
During the procedure, the doctor discovered that Margaret had also been living with a “chronic infection” which would not have been found without the mesh being removed.
“I consider myself so lucky to get in there before the infection turned into something else,” said Margaret.
Five years after having the mesh inserted at Wexford General Hospital, Margaret began to experience infections, symptoms that later led to constant pain, bleeding and other debilitating issues. She attended a gynaecologist appointment, but all of her scans came up clear. On later learning about the complications faced by other women who have mesh, she realised that this might be at the root of her problems. The lack of specialist equipment and professionals in Ireland meant that she was unable to confirm mesh was causing her problem, and unable to get it removed.
Increasing levels of discomfort and pain led Margaret to leave her job, and had negative implications on her physical and mental health. A light in the darkness was the discovery of Mesh Ireland – a support group for women who have experienced medical complications caused by vaginal mesh. Through this group, Margaret learned of many other women with similar experiences to her, including those who have travelled to America for full mesh removal. This includes her fellow group member and now friend Mandy Jackson from Wicklow, who previously travelled to St Louis, Missouri to have the mesh fully removed and has been pain free ever since. On learning of the clinic, Margaret had a WhatsApp consultation with the clinic’s doctor, Dr Dionysius Veronikis, who confirmed that her symptoms were related to the mesh. She booked an appointment for the surgery and spent the next few months raising the necessary funds with the help of friends, family and members of the local community.
"The treatment out there was unbelievable. From start to finish, everything was amazing and the friendliness and helpfulness was incredible. I was feeling nervous without a doubt but knew I would be in good hands. People are travelling from all over the world to see this doctor,” said Margaret on her return home.
Following the successful procedure, Margaret is now looking forward to moving on with her life.
"For one, this gives me more opportunities regarding work. Hopefully, I’ll be able to take on the work I used to do and be able for it. I’d like to get back walking again too. We hope to do the Mini Marathon next year for Mesh Ireland so I will be preparing for that.”
While the constant pain and health problems caused by the mesh may be behind Margaret, her efforts to support other women living with similar issues are not.
"All I keep thinking of is the women who can’t get out there and can’t be helped. It was the first thing I said to Mandy after the surgery,” she said. “I am hearing more and more stories about different women and they just don’t have the money to get out to America. I wouldn’t have been able to do it only for the fundraiser.”
Margaret and other members of Mesh Ireland have been campaigning for funding to be provided through the Treatment Abroad Scheme for women with medical complications caused by mesh. They will soon return to the Oireachtas to discuss this possibility, said Margaret.
“I’d give anything I could to help another woman to get out. If anyone wants to ask questions about the journey, I’m more than willing to help and talk to them.”
Margaret wished to express her gratitude for everyone who supported her fundraising campaigns in recent months.
"I’d like to thank everybody that made this possible. It wouldn’t have happened without them. It really wouldn’t. I’m so grateful for all of the support.”