Women beg Saskatchewan government to pay for surgical mesh removal

Three Saskatchewan women claim they’re being denied proper medical treatment by our Government.

Prince Albert native Marika English’s story started in February. She was suffering from incontinence, so her gynocologist recommended they implant transvaginal mesh to fix the issue.

“He just said that they do it all the time,” said English. “There’s no problems, and that was it.”

Two weeks after surgery she was in excrutiating pain, but no doctors could find an issue.

Her own research took her to California where a specialist used a translabial ultrasound to locate the plastic mesh. It was eroding into her bladder, and now nine months later it’s also eroding through her vagina.

“When I move a certain way, it feels like I have a tampon with a razor blade in there,” said English. “My husband and I haven’t been intimate since February.”

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She quickly learned she wasn’t alone. She found two other Saskatchewan women on Facebook, Stephanie Brad and Ruth Olson, who faced similar complications.

Then she saw that thousands of women across North America have had severe side effects from the implant since 2010.

“They’re putting a product in us that they know is falling apart,” said English.

She wants it taken out, but the mesh is meant to be a permanent implant. Surgeons compare removing it to pulling bubblegum out of hair.

Her specialist in Saskatoon won’t perform the procedure. He gave her a referral for an expert at UCLA who has had success with the procedure, but the Saskatchewan Government denied her coverage, saying that policy dictates they need to look within Canada first.

“What is being requested in the U.S. is avaliable in Canada,” said Health Minister Dustin Duncan. “There’s several doctors that have been identified, most specifically one in British Columbia that has practised in the United States and knows the UCLA physician quite well.”

English says she’s been in contact with that physican, but that he prefers to do partial mesh removals and she wants a full removal.

Duncan says a full removal wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility if it was deemed necessary.

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“That determination of whether or not to do a full or partial would have to be done in consultation with the patients,” said Duncan.

English isn’t waiting. She got a loan of $30,000 and is flying to California Monday to get the mesh fully removed.

Even then , her health may never return to normal.

“When you have something in you, and you have to take it out like bubblegum our of hair, you’re never going to be perfect, but that’s the best chance I have,” she said.

When she returns home she wants to become an advocate for better health policy here in Saskatchewan.

“Why are we as women being left to suffer because they have bureaucracy and channels to go through,” she said.

While this procedure is still approved by Health Canada, they have issued a warning about the adverse side effects of the product.

Duncan says all Saskatchewan physicians should discuss potential side effects with their patients before making a decision.