Welcome to Part Two of our interview with mesh survivor Christy Hammond, founder of SurvivingMESH.org, and her attorney, Karen Beyea-Schroeder. In this podcast episode, Christy continues to discuss her experiences with transvaginal mesh, life after mesh and her views on the medical industry. Then, her attorney explains more about mesh lawsuits.
(Don’t miss Part I, which aired last week.).
When Christy found out what transvaginal mesh was and how the dangerous device made it inside her body, at first she felt betrayed by her doctor.
“Had I known, it would have changed the outcome. I can assure you of that. If somebody had presented this information to me today, I would not have had that surgery. Period,” Christy said. “But unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.”
As Christy learned more about the mesh, she realized she couldn’t blame the doctors. They were just trying to do their job, she said, with what information and tools they were provided with.
It was the manufacturers that didn’t warn women about the health risks associated with mesh, she said. What little they did warn about was not a strong enough warning, Christy said, and it didn’t properly convey the extent of the injuries a woman could suffer by using a mesh implant.
While Christy no longer blames doctors, she also feels that they need to do their due diligence.
“They need to pay attention to what is happening with these manufacturing companies and realize that [these companies] are not always looking out for the best interest of their patients,” she said.
The experience with mesh taught Christy that she needs to be more vigilant when it comes to being informed about her health care.
“It makes me more aware that [you] need to do research on anything and everything that you ever put inside your body. It’s a concern for everyone,” she said. “Someone needs to keep a better watch over these companies.”
Christy also learned about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 510(k) process, one of the most troubling aspects of the story of mesh.
Under the 510(k), manufacturers are not required to test certain medical devices as long as they are based on a similar product already on the market.
As such, many of these products make it into people’s bodies without being adequately tested for safety and effectiveness.
“It’s scary,” Christy said.
Christy and other women who have gone through the complications with mesh call themselves “survivors” because the health issues they face truly do make them feel like they could be dying.
“I was convinced I was dying of a mysterious illness,” she said. “Until I had the mesh removed, I was not convinced I was going to live much longer. It was remarkable all the things I was going through. The list is a mile long.”
In fact, even after the mesh was removed, she was convinced she was getting worse. She began to doubt her decision to have the mesh removed. Then, after about 12 weeks, she was finally able to sit up for longer than 30 minutes, and she knew the surgery had helped.
That burning pelvic pain that was her constant companion for years was finally gone. She could finally breathe better, and her lower back pain was better.
Still, there are many things she simply has to live with, including scarring, numbness and nerve damage.
Despite the fact that her health will never be the same, she made the commitment to move from victim to survivor. For all those years, she said, she hid her pain.
“I don’t have to hide it anymore,” she said. “I own it. Now, let’s just move forward. So, I do consider myself a survivor.”
To other women who are still suffering with the effects of mesh, Christy says this: “Do not give up. Do not be bullied into thinking it is not the mesh that is causing your pain and agony. Keep researching, and find that one doctor that will take the time to listen. If you have mesh in you, get it out.”
Many people assume that mesh lawsuits are lumped into a class action, but that is not the case. According to attorney Karen Beyea-Schroeder, class actions are large lawsuits involving multiple unknown plaintiffs. Often, the attorney filing the class action will make a decision on behalf of all plaintiffs.
In product liability cases involving medical devices such as transvaginal mesh or hip implants, plaintiffs retain their own case and make claims for individual damages.
“Not one person is treated the same,” Beyea-Schroeder said. “Everybody is unique; everybody is different. You need to be able to account for that when you are evaluating cases.”
She also explains that women may have a limited amount of time to file a mesh lawsuit.
Last week, we aired Part I of this podcast. Listen here.
Michelle Y. Llamas is a senior content writer and researcher for Drugwatch. She is also the host of the Drugwatch Podcast where she talks to patients, experts and advocates about drugs, medical devices and health. She uses her technical writing experience to provide easy-to-understand information on how drugs and devices work. But she also tells people what happens when products that are supposed to improve their lives can hurt them.
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