A mother-of-two says she can no longer have sex with her husband after she was fitted with a vaginal mesh implant which has ‘ruined her life’.
Cat Lee, 43, underwent the procedure, which has left hundreds of other British women in anguish, to treat her incontinence after childbirth.
But it left her in so much pain, forcing her to retire and made her completely dependent on a mobility scooter as she is unable to walk or stand.
Mrs Lee, from Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, even gave her husband Gordon, 46, the opportunity to sleep with someone else as the discomfort stopped her from making love.
The true degree of the mesh came to light earlier this year, when senior doctors are calling for a public inquiry into its usage, saying it could be similar to the thalidomide scandal.
After undergoing private treatment to remove most of the implant, which Mrs Lee claims has made her incontinence worse, the NHS has paid her £375,000, but still refuses to accept any offence.
Speaking for the first time since having the vaginal mesh implant, Mrs Lee, who is registered disabled, has revealed the devastating impact it has had on her life.
Mrs Lee, who is completely dependent on a mobility scooter to get around, said: ‘Ten years on, I’m convinced that the so-called “simple” vaginal mesh surgery has ruined my life.
‘Luckily, we didn’t want any more kids, but I don’t feel like proper mum to Charlie. I can only do the school run a few times a week and then, he has to walk alongside me in my mobility scooter.
‘I can’t play with him like other mums and I don’t feel like much of a wife either.
Mrs Lee added: ‘My poor husband, Gordon, was more like my carer. As for sex, it was strictly out of bounds because of the pain.
‘I even suggested he could sleep with someone else. Luckily, he refused, saying it was me he loved.’
She said the money ‘doesn’t make up’ for eight years she has ‘lost’ since having the procedure.
Mrs Lee added: ‘I’m now registered disabled, unemployed and can’t even go out for drinks with my girlfriends.’
Experiencing severe morning sickness and incontinence throughout her pregnancy, Mrs Lee was keen to return to work after having Charlie.
She was the main breadwinner, while husband Mr Lee, who works in web support, stayed at home to look after their son.
But the lecturer at Huddersfield University was mortified when her incontinence became so uncontrollable that she wet herself at work.
Recalling the incident, she said: ‘I was so ashamed and humiliated. I’d gone back to work, six months after having Charlie, but I was still wetting myself.
‘On this occasion, as I marched across the campus, I felt a rush between my legs. I’d wet myself and it had soaked right through the pad I’d been wearing.
‘I was only 33, but I felt like a granny. I even had to ask a colleague to buy me some new tights, although I was too embarrassed to tell her why.’
Following her humiliating incident at work, Mrs Lee, who also has a daughter, Tash, 21, from a previous relationship, saw her GP.
He referred her to a gynaecologist at Calderdale Royal Hospital, part of Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust.
Mrs Lee, who was planning to study for a PhD, was told she had stress incontinence and had a minor prolapse, which was affecting her bladder control.
She said: ‘I was fine when I had Tash, but with Charlie, I lost count of the times I wet myself when I was pregnant.
‘Afterwards, though, it got worse and worse. Wetting myself at work was the final straw.’
When she was offered vaginal mesh surgery, which was a net-like implant used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence after childbirth, understandably she jumped at the chance.
She was told it was a simple 20-minute procedure and, if it ended the misery of her incontinence, would transform her life.
The surgery was scheduled for December 2, 2009 at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, two weeks after her wedding.
The couple, who had known each other for 22 years, decided not have a honeymoon until after the operation.
With her surgery imminent, Mrs Lee felt like everything in her life was falling into place, until disaster struck.
When she woke from the anaesthetic she experienced an intense burning pain, starting in her left groin and spreading to the right side.
She said: ‘I was in crippling pain, unable to walk or stand properly.’
Given painkillers, she assumed this must be normal after surgery. Discharged that day, she was told to rest for six weeks.
She said: ‘Despite spending days in bed, the pain was still as intense and debilitating for years after.’
In March 2010, she returned to work, but claims, while the incontinence was cured, she could barely walk, because of the burning feeling in her groin.
Referred back to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary by her GP, she was told the mesh implant could take a year to settle.
As her pain continued for the next few years, Mrs Lee researched and discovered some could cut into the vagina, causing severe discomfort.
She said: ‘By September 2011 – two years after the operation – I couldn’t even sit down because of the pain.
‘Finally, at the end of 2012, I was referred to another hospital in Leeds for steroid injections and a Vaginal Wall Prolapse Repair – a procedure to repair the sinking of the vaginal wall. Still nothing worked and the pain persisted.’
Forced to retire
By the summer of 2013, Mrs Lee retired because she was too unwell to work. With time on her hands, she continued researching vaginal mesh surgery.
She discovered a Harley Street doctor in London who specialised in removing her type of mesh – but they charged £10,000.
Legal action had already been started against Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, who run both hospitals Mrs Lee attended.
It agreed to pay the fee, allowing for her to go under the knife to have most of the mesh removed.
Mrs Lee has now joined Sling the Mesh, a campaign group calling for implant operations to be completely banned.
‘My life has been turned upside down’
She said: ‘I want to help other women like me. Since the operation, my life has been turned upside down. I’m convinced the mesh is the reason why.
‘I’m even more incontinent now than I was before. I don’t want another child like Charlie seeing their mum go through this.’
Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust’s director of nursing, Brendan Brown, said: ‘Clearly this has been a distressing experience for Ms Lee.
‘We have agreed a settlement out of court and as a result we are unable to comment further on this case.’