What happened to these women is a part of Irish women’s history and what is happening to women around the world because of pelvic mesh is also part of history and is part of women’s lives right now who are struggling. The atrocities done to women in history and at the present time must NEVER BE FORGOTTEN.
At first you may not see the correlation between pelvic mesh implants and what happened to the women in Ireland, but if you have gone through or are still going through complications from your implant, then by the time you finish reading this, you certainly will. You may also think these women who live in another country have nothing to do with your life. However you would be wrong. What happened to these women was because of brutal medicine, but we are in a worse war due to the fact that the giant pharmaceutical companies are making women the targets for bad birth control and implants and the doctors help them do it.
You may not think you have to help win this war, but your daughters, granddaughters and future generations will be the next targeted victims. We all have to make a change and speak out to change the tide of what is happening to women.
Symphysiotomy. Have you ever heard of this childbirth technique? Until I began watching a series written in Ireland about a doctor’s clinic, titled The Clinic. Nothing was explained much in the series about what happened to women so I decided to look it up and frankly I was shocked. In fact during the small discussion of an older woman talking to her OBGYN about her incontinence, I fully expected to here they would fix it with mesh. However the tests revealed the woman had been living with a fistula (tear in her bladder) since she gave birth to her child years before so she assumed it was incontinence. It was only after she met someone after her husband died did she venture to find out what her problem was.
This will help you understand a little more about what these barbaric doctors did to women in labor.
After I read up on what happened to her, I got really angry about the way this was handled on this series, because when her OBGYN asked if she wanted to join the class action, the woman said calmly “No I don’t think so because that just isn’t me”. It made me think the writers were trying to please the government. I say every woman injured should join a class action or tort not because of receiving a vast sum of money, which I firmly believe these women should have, it is because the more women file, the more attention will be drawn to what happened to them. You will see that 1500 women made a claim, but how many more died, or committed suicide because of terrible pain or went to a clinic and it was down played and made them feel guilty. That is what I want the producers of this show to know?
I also want them to know about what is going on now with mesh bladder slings. How many women in Ireland don’t know why they never felt well after their hysterectomy? How many have suffered for years and they are brushed off.
I want you to read some Irish women’s stories and know that throughout history women have been targets for the medical industry and sadly Guinee pigs just like we are now with pelvic mesh. Believe me if you have not heard of this technique of childbirth, you will relate to what these women went through and how many years it took for anyone to take notice. First though I want you to know what happened during this surgery? Here is an explanation in a book written to explain how to do it.
Cutting a patient’s symphysis allows the two halves of her pelvis to separate 2 to 2.5 cm. This increases its diameter by 0.6 to 0.8 cm, which is enough to overcome mild or moderate CPD, and so avoid Caesarean section. After delivery, its circumference remains wider by about 1.5 cm, and its diameter by about 0.5 cm, so that her next deliveries may be normal. Symphysiotomy is thus particularly valuable if she wants a large family.
This is one of the most contentious operations in this book. One school of thought considers it a ”[…]barbarous operation done by expatriate doctors on the mothers of the developing world[…]” Another school, which includes all our contributors who practise obstetrics, considers it an invaluable operation which needs to be reinstated and given its proper place: (1) Unlike Caesarean section, especially with unskilled anaesthesia, it is never fatal, and seldom produces complications, particularly serious ones. (2) It does not leave a mother with a scar in her uterus which may rupture if she does not deliver in hospital when she is pregnant next time. (3) It may save her life if she delivers in a health centre and cannot be referred. Like many other medical procedures it has been evaluated by personal experience rather than by formal trials, and there is a particular lack of good data on how effective it is in the hands of paramedical staff on a community scale. We encourage you to investigate this, since, like the destructive operations, it is one of the few practical procedures which might really alleviate maternal mortality from obstructed labour.
Symphysiotomy has fallen into disrepute because there was a time when it was used to overcome gross CPD, which led to serious complications. It is not used at all in parts of the world where CPD hardly exists, where trends are set[md]and where most textbooks are written. But, in countries where CPD is common, symphysiotomy is excellent[md]if it is used for borderline cases only. If CPD is marked, a mother needs a Caesarean section. The skill is to recognize the difference. You will not need to do a symphysiotomy very often, and you will find that deciding when to do one needs more judgement than deciding when to section a mother. If a symphysiotomy fails you can still do a Caesarean section: but you should look upon this as an error of judgement, and try to do better next time. A terrible error of judgement for many women.
There was a lot more but frankly I felt sick when I read women’s stories of suffering. This was part of what women said in a 50 page paper that was presented to the United Nations Committee against TORTURE. Does this sound familiar to many of you. Torture! Exactly what many of us have gone through and continue going through all because of pelvic mesh.
Now read and I warn you it is hard to read, but very necessary if we are to continue the fight against the use of pelvic mesh.
THE SURVIVORS OF Symphysiotomy’s submission to the United Nations Committee Against Torture makes for difficult reading.
Some of the 300 survivors recount their personal experiences of the childbirth operation which has been described as barbaric and cruel.
A symphysiotomy was a procedure carried out on pregnant women before, during or after birth in the place of a Caesarean Section. It involved breaking the patient’s pelvis and leaving it permanently enlarged.
The women, the majority of whom were in their early 20s and having their first child, have suffered chronic pain, incontinence, walking difficulties, sexual problems and other issues for their entire lives as a result.
One survivor described the experience of the chainsaw used to incise the pubic bone in pubiotomy (an even riskier but related surgery) as like being cut with broken glass.
Some of the methods used for symphysiotomy were more painful than others. Zarate’s method was preferred at the IMTH in Drogheda. A former master explained the technique:
The upper and anterior portions [of the symphysis] are severed together with with part of the arcuate ligament leaving the last fibres to be gently torn by the slow abduction [splaying] of the legs. By further abduction of the legs, the separation of the pubic bones, to the desired extent, is brought about. This is beyond barbaric.
Here are more of the survivors’ stories, in their own words.
“I just remember being brought into a theatre and the place was packed with people. I wasn’t told what was happening … I was screaming and being restrained. I couldn’t see much except for them sawing. It was excruciating pain, I was just 27 and I was butchered.” Can you imagine not just seeing this, but hearing the sounds of her torture.
De Valera said, ‘I’d like it [the baby] to come on naturally.’ I was almost a week at home, I was small, and the baby was getting bigger and bigger. I went in again – they induced me. ‘I normally do a Caesarean section,’ De Valera said, ‘but because you are such a good a Catholic, I’ll do a symphysiotomy, you’re a Catholic family, you’d be expected to have at least ten – if you have a Caesarean, you can only have three. And, as a Catholic, you need to go through the pains of childbirth – if you had a Caesarean, you wouldn’t. The baby is as big as yourself – why do small women marry big men? I’ll have to stretch your hips and straighten your pelvis. I’d no idea what a symphysiotomy was.’ Because you are a good catholic you should have ten babies? How barbaric is that? I personally feel that there is no place in medicine for religion.
“I was screaming. It’s not working, [the anaesthetic] I said, I can feel everything … I saw him go and take out a proper hacksaw, like a wood saw…a half-circle with a straight blade and a handle…The blood shot up to the ceiling, up onto his glasses, all over the nurses… This woman dealt with the mental affects for the rest of her life and I am sure she was put down and told it was she who had the problem, just like happens with pelvic mesh.
“Then he goes to the table, and gets something like a solder iron and puts it on me, and stopped the bleeding. …They told me to push her out, she must have been out before they burnt me. He put the two bones together, there was a burning pain, I knew I was going to die.” OMG I wish I could hug this woman.
They put a needle in my arm, to induce me, but it didn’t work … [Dr] Feeney came in … He took off his beige leather gloves and coat – he was after being at Mass – and said, I’m going to do a little thing for you. The most I thought I could have was a [Caesarean] section … I woke up at 2.30.
‘Where’s the baby’, I said. ‘Your pelvis bone was split,’ the nurse said, ‘and you’re only going into strong labour.’
Feeney was very abrupt. ‘You can have ten children, all normal,’ he said. ‘Who wants ten children?’ I said. They did it without my permission. I was cut from the navel down. Feeney brought in a Canadian doctor to have a look at me. ‘Look how well she is doing,’ he said. ‘I’ve lost the use of my legs,’ I said. Once again women were used like animals and she had to have ten children to be a good catholic. “I’ve lost the use of my legs?” How terrible and how did she cope with young children?
Dolores An awful story, a young woman who had one and her only child all because of this procedure.
“I worked for six years in Bewley’s before I got married, as a waitress. We got married in 1958. We were lucky, we got a corporation house for newly-weds. I worked for the Medical Missionaries of Mary. They were wonderful.
“It was 1961. I suggested going to the Rotunda myself. I was a public patient. One Friday morning, I got pains. My husband came into hospital with me. I was in an ordinary bed for two days, nothing was happening. Saturday and Sunday, I had the odd pain, no more, they weren’t strong. I was due the next day, then they got anxious.
“On Sunday night, they told me I’d be going down the next morning, they brought me for a shower. On Monday, they brought me down to the labour ward, then they brought me to the operating theatre, I thought I was going to have the baby. I was put out, I nearly suffocated with what they gave me, it was sickening. When I woke up, I asked the nurse, ‘Is the baby alright?’ ‘You didn’t have it yet,’ the nurse said, ‘You’ve had your pelvis broken.’ I have only heard of a broken pelvic during an accident, not deliberate.
“Shocked, I was. ‘The baby will be born soon,’ she said.
“That night, after the operation, I started [in labour]. Pat [my husband] had to leave. The labour ward was cold, miserable, out of this world, there were tiles on the floor. I was left so long on the labour ward, I was dying, it was freezing cold there, I’ll never forget it. I can feel her fear and how cold it was in her explanation.
“The next morning, at twelve, they said you need to go up to the operating theatre. They rushed me to the theatre, they didn’t speak to me, I don’t know who did it. They broke the bone on Monday, and on Tuesday, at twelve, I had a [Caesarean] section. So she went through two serious procedures. So this is an error of judgement? No this is TORTURE!
I came back to the ward. They left me flat, I was so sore, Jesus, they left me in a bad way. When Pat and his friend came in, there was roaring, I was in awful pain – you couldn’t move your head. I was very bad after the first [operation], after the second, it was impossible.
“I don’t know how long I was in [hospital] for, I was knocked out, out of this world. The smell of it, the anesthetic, I couldn’t breathe. It was a miracle I was alive. I was left so long in labour, I’d have been alright if they did a [Caesarean] section [in the beginning], it wouldn’t have been so bad. They took an awful chance on people’s lives, didn’t they?
“I’d like them to go through it, to see how it felt. I know how she feels. I didn’t want to live, I was in a week or a fortnight, I didn’t know where I was, I didn’t know what day it was. No, they put nothing on my hips. I didn’t know what nightdress I had, or what I had [a boy or a girl]. There were two patients. Pat came in to see me. ‘”Are you alright?’ he said.
“They were worried about me. The nurses would leave you out on a chair, they’d wash your face. I was so ill I didn’t know what they were doing to me. Tears came to me because I have heard this from women after mesh surgeries.
“She never stopped crying in there, she was left too long [in labour]. Her hair was orange or ginger, I didn’t know what colour it was. I wondered was [the labour] gone so far that the blood had gone to her head. It was a rose colour, she had it until she was two years of age. The baby also suffered.
“The nieces were in the house when I came home, Pat had the baby. I was freezing. ‘Get a [hot water] jar,’ I said, ‘I want to lie down.’ The woman was in shock and probably had infection.
“I wasn’t able to talk to them, I was sick and sore. I came home on a Sunday, and collapsed the following Tuesday, on the floor, at home. Pat was at work, the baby was crying. Only for a neighbour heard her. I fell asleep, I couldn’t waken up, the ambulance came, they rushed me back to the hospital. They kept me in a couple of weeks, they fed me with mince on a spoon. I lost my appetite, I didn’t feel like eating. Infection.
“No, they never sent out anyone to me, the public health nurse never came near me. I thought it was a bit queer, not to give you a chance to pull yourself together. It took me a long time to get back into myself, it was the end of my good days. ‘Was my child going to be affected?’ I asked myself. She was a very cross child.
“My back started to fall down. I couldn’t balance, I couldn’t straighten. My back was very bad, the pelvis bone never goes back. It stopped everything, I was in awful pain.
“The child was crying all the time, my sister took her away. I wouldn’t trust him [Pat] with her, he wouldn’t know what to do. She put her on the sideboard, in a carry cot, and put her son, John, in the pram. She minded her for a long time. I used to sleep on the couch, wrapped in blankets, with a hot water bottle. I couldn’t go up the stairs, no. After a couple of months, Anne brought back the baby.
“It was my first baby, yes, and my last. It scared me stiff, I was scared stiff, I couldn’t go through it again, it was the last thought in my head, to have another child.
“I can’t straighten up my back, I’d like to, but I can’t. I got rheumatoid arthritis. It came on seven or eight years ago. There was a part of my body gone.
I leave the light on all night, my nerves were gone since then [the operations], I was afraid of everything, it was very frightening, from beginning to end. I never visualised anything like it, I was in a shocking state, everything was in a blur. A terrible case of medical PTSD.
“They never pointed out to me why they done it. I couldn’t move with the pain, they shouldn’t have done it. No one said anything, I didn’t know I had a pelvis bone. It was very, very, very severe. I couldn’t turn, that part of my body was gone. I had a cross on the stomach [one cut down, the other across]. Why didn’t I have a section in the first place? I can’t understand it. I can still feel the cold of that labour ward today.
“They didn’t say anything about the pelvis, they didn’t say anything about the pelvis bone. They left me with half a back.” I don’t know this woman but I want to apologize to her for all she went through because she will never hear that from any doctor. I truly feel a deep compassion for her and want her to know someone cares.
All the baby clothes, the ones my grandmother had bought, we had to throw out. Chris had to make the coffin and bury the baby himself, she was buried under a tree. We had no money. I couldn’t walk. Where is she buried? I asked him, years later. So sad. To go through this and lose the child.
“My feet were tied up in stirrups for the symphysiotomy, I had gas and air. I must have fainted off, the nurse came with a bowl of water and a facecloth, and splashed water all over my face. These are the things you remember. I hated it, it was not nice, I still don’t like it [splashing water on my face]. I was in terrible distress. What he did to me––you have no power, when your legs are caught up like that. No power…… I know that feeling but I took mine back.
There was one person who was holding my hand, a junior doctor in training, yes, he was the only one who showed me kindness, and the nurse who threw the water on me.
“It was so clinical. They knew she was big, that she was breech, he [Dr Connolly] should have done a Caesarean section. There was no discussion, she was too far down [the birth canal]. That’s where she must have got her damage.
“Things followed on from each other. She was taken away and put into an incubator, into special care. Three days after, the nurse said, ‘Get out of bed.’ ‘I can’t,’ I said, ‘I’m supposed to stay in bed.’ ‘Do you think you’re in a hotel,’ she said. She literally threw me out, took a look at me, then threw me back in. If I’d stood up, I might never have never walked again. I often wonder how any woman could be this cruel.
“How was I? Sore and sick and crying all the time. I only had the catheder in for a few days. I had to, I couldn’t get out of bed,
“They made me learn to walk up and down the stairs, up and down. When he sawed my bone or whatever he did, I didn’t realise what was happening, I was given no advice. I thought I’d never get out of the hospital – I was in there for 13 days. She was a big girl, she was 9 pounds, I was very slight. My own daughter weighed nine pounds at birth.
“I went home to my mother. I was in agony. I was walking, hobbling, you’d call it. My sister had to come over and look after the baby, I got a good bit of help. My brothers helped, too. I don’t know how I managed, I spent two months in my mother’s house. Then I got back into myself.
…I was nervous over the years, always conscious of the need not to break that bone again. My sister said to take cod liver oil, so I took that until I got sick of it, then I took evening primrose oil, I still take it. If I didn’t take it, I’d know about it, it’s small things like that that matter.
“I swore by baths and water, I’d hop into the shower, it gives you a bit of relief. I didn’t realise it [symphysiotomy] would cause so much trouble and pain. Your own relationship with your husband was at risk…running to the toilet all the time. I was always determined never to let it take over my life. I wasn’t going to let it destroy my life.
“Yes, in the majority of cases, it did destroy their lives. I have every kind of an insole, reflexology, heel insoles, you name it, I have it. I had physio, my ankle was so bad, so I thought maybe I’d get physio, it was very sore. I would do anything to try and help myself. I try not to put on weight. I have a medical card, but I pay for the incontinence pads myself …
You don’t take a block out from the bottom of the house, because there’s going to be cracking. The pelvis is the same, it’s the foundation of the house. This woman truly explains what happens when you do something like this. She was one determined woman and survived because of that without any medical help.
“I remember the day as if it was yesterday. I knew it was wrong. My GP [general practitioner] knew it was wrong. It happened in 1957, on 1 September. I was about 31. I’d have been fine if they’d sectioned me. My pelvis was disproportioned. ‘Your pelvis would never deliver a child,’ the doctor said.
“He sent me away to the hospital when I was three months pregnant, into [St] Finbarr’s. I saw [Dr] Sutton, but he never said anything.
The sister tutor had written ‘query section?’ on my notes. ‘Over my dead body,’ said Sutton.
“I was in strong, violent pain when I went in, overdue by a week and a couple of days, maybe. The head never engaged at any stage, I was in very strong labour, stupid with all that gas and air. After three days – I heard this myself – I heard the gynae sister say, ‘Is that woman still in labour? Get onto Dr Sutton at once, and say to him, come please, or else we we’ll lose a mother and child here.’
“And Sutton said, ‘What do you want? She’ll bloody well deliver herself like any other woman.’ Bastard!
“The sister tutor said to Sutton, get down here – he came then. I was weak, in an awful state and he was the cause of it. He didn’t talk to me, he was surly…I was put out, yes [for the operation]. He was six pounds eleven ounces.
“The next day they heard the roaring and screaming. They didn’t tell me what they were doing, I thought I had paralysis, I couldn’t move my legs up or down, I was so sore I couldn’t move. I couldn’t hold him [the child]: they kept him in [hospital] three months. I was in six weeks, my legs were as dead as dead could be. I asked what was wrong, nobody told me. It was a case of shut up – you felt you were up against a brick wall. He [Sutton] didn’t come to my bedside. I was too paralysed to walk. All I can think of is the small payment the Irish government gave these women for a lifetime of agony and disabilities.
After the second week, they put me walking on a corridor, I fainted with the pain, it was like walking on thorns, the pain and the soreness. I got no help, no, no help whatsoever from them [in hospital]….
“[At home], the wound was discharging; there was a terrible smell. I dosed it with Dettol. Infection. There was no nurse [to look after me]. I remember, it was the winter, the pain in my back [was so bad], it would be fine thing to be dead, I thought. The doctor came in, turned the key in the [front] door like they did then. ‘My God, my love, I’m so sorry,’ he said, ‘You’ve suffered so much. It didn’t work out for us, things didn’t go right for you, it never crossed my mind that that would be done to you. Take little strolls, little ones.’
“I took a stroll down town, but I couldn’t keep going, I got locked in, I couldn’t move, it was the soreness of the bones. A woman on the other side of the road asked me to come over and have a cup of tea, but I couldn’t cross the road.
“They thought I was going to die, I was so white. There was no binding of the pelvis, no, I was shuffling for six months. Once, I went up the stairs, but I couldn’t keep going, and I couldn’t come down, I was jammed in the middle, frozen to death. My husband came home to find me shaking. Arthritis set in straight after [the surgery].
“My sister got married and I couldn’t go to the wedding. It was like I was walking on springs, like this [showing two separate, unconnected springs, one going up as the other came down, with her hands]. I had this dragging down pain in my back, the pain was in the spine, at the bottom of the spine. They treated it [the arthritis] with tablets, I got over it. This sounds like they damaged her pudendal nerve and probably most of the others.
“The pain eased off, it was bad the first year. I had a friend who came in to help me with the baby, I couldn’t get up the steps, my pelvis stayed [making a rocking motion with her hands from side to side]. It was very hard to keep your balance, I could write a book about it, it was so sore and painful. I was never right after it. It took the wind out of my sails.
“Everything was thrown to one side, the doctor said. I couldn’t enjoy myself, I couldn’t go out, I was walking on thorns. If I landed on my back, my children would have to pull me up. I couldn’t sit up [by myself]. I had a bad prolapse of the womb after. I had to have a total hysterectomy, my bladder, everything, all gone. I feel so sad for her and I want to scream for her.
“He [my husband] was a cross man. ‘You’re only half a woman,’ he said, after the hysterectomy. What kind of a thing was that to say to me? He made out that I wanted it [the hysterectomy]. I couldn’t take it any more, I came down here. I know many men ill treat women after pelvic mesh because they can no longer have sex.
“The doctors were gods, absolutely, in their own minds they were. Who knows the child better than the mother? The child’s doctor would say, ‘Did you ever hear any mother saying anything right? They haven’t the brains.’ Or some woman might know her [due] dates, and the doctor would say: ‘She doesn’t know anything, she’s too stupid.’ They won’t say that now, women won’t take it. They don’t say this direct to our faces these days but they still imply it. “Here take an antidepressant” is their answer to get rid of you.
“Stiffness now is what I have. I wear a [pelvic] belt, but I can’t wear it all day. I am completely incontinent today. I was called to the Regional [Hospital] a couple of years ago to see a gynae. There was supposed to be a special [medical] card [for survivors of symphysiotomy ] but that never came … I have a home help, yes, one hour a day, five days a week. I know her very well, she is very kind. If I went down to clean out the fire, I couldn’t get up, so she has the fire set.
“I have no [hospital] notes. [Dr] Kearney didn’t believe me [when I told him what they did to me], so he sent away for my notes. ‘I didn’t get your notes,’ he said, ‘they said they never had a patient of that name that year.’ It was my word against theirs. All I have from there is the baptism certificate of the child [stating where she was born]. Doctors still try to cover things up in these times, but thankfully the hospitals are forced to keep records.
“I never got my note, it was a trick of the trade, wasn’t it? Making a confounded liar of a person. It still happens with medical mesh. They don’t say you are a liar but they imply it. It happened to me.
…I was reared in the country on a farm, we had calving cattle. The vets were so nice to the animals [in labour], they would talk to them, and encourage them, and [rubbing the flank of an imaginary animal with her hands] stroke them. The doctors were so horrible to a human being. There was no way a vet would put an animal through what we went through.
“My mother had six children, all at home. She had her own private nurse for a week after [calling to the house]. She had the doctor as well, for no reason, she didn’t need him. My mother had a great time in those days, long ago…Her daughters never had it as good.”
So what did the government pay to women who went through this for their entire lifetime?
Only last year, a redress scheme was announced, offering symphysiotomy survivors – many of whom are now in their 70s – €50,000, €100,00 or €150,000, depending on the severity of their injuries. The group submitted a report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture. It makes harrowing reading.
How much is this? From $57.000 U.S dollars to $171.00 U.S. For a lifetime of pain!
129 women’s wombs were removed. Yes, sterile for the rest of their lives AND living in pain.
I know this has been hard to read if you have pelvic mesh complications, but we have to do something to change what happens to the women of the future. We cannot stay silent. We cannot suffer in silence. It is our duty to do something, to state the name of the doctor who did this to us. If we stay silent, this will happen to thousands more women and like in the Irish government, it will be covered up for one hundred years. I won’t let this happen while I can write and tell the truth.
Doctors now have lawyers to make sure that you cannot sue them for any procedure that left you living a life of pain. But they are just as responsible for doing things to women and leaving them disabled. They ARE EQUALLY RESPONIBLE for believing mesh manufacturers and using implants that could cause a lifetime of pain. They should do their own research and ask questions. They should not do these surgeries without many years of learning, not a few days in a school on a cadaver. They are just as responsible in this day and age, and they were in the lives of these women.
There should be no such thing as suffering in silence. The current trend using implants that can cause damage over a lifetime should be abolished. I recently announced the name of my implanting doctor because I thought it was high time I did. You can read who she is here
Please do not bury your head in the sand. You may think this is a rarity but you would be wrong. Other terrible things have happened to women in recent history and you can read all about a drug that was given to pregnant women and it is NOT Thalidomide. A drug that did not receive the publicity of the thalidomide drug and there was NO movie. Read what that drug was here
If you don’t know what is going on, you will become a victim. You can read all about the trend of putting mesh in women here
Here is a video of one woman telling her story in Ireland. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FC6C2_9b-JY