Chrissy Brajcic
Chrissy Brajcic (Photo: Facebook)

HEALTH NEWS

The vaginal-mesh implant led to Chrissy Brajcic’s death. When will we start taking women’s health seriously?

The 42-year-old Canadian mother of two died in late November following years of infections caused by the surgery

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By Kuba Shand-Baptiste on

The government has debated them, Australia has banned them and now a woman has died from complications caused by a vaginal-mesh implant – a procedure used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence that has brought excruciating pain to thousands of women around the world.

Canadian anti-mesh campaigner Chrissy Brajcic became what is thought to be the first fatal casualty of the procedure last week. She died from sepsis after a four-year bout of urinary tract infections brought on by the vaginal-mesh implant left her resistant to antibiotics.

In the month prior to her death, Brajcic, who gained support from anti-mesh campaigners around the world for her tireless resistance, recorded a video on Facebook live from her hospital bed. Despite nearly succumbing to sepsis, an experience that she said left her “terrified”, one of her main concerns was spreading awareness about the dangers of the mesh. “I can’t wait to get back to my old self [...] and get back to being an advocate and fighting. I don’t want this to happen to anybody. This is insane,” she said.

But the fact remains that for the thousands of women who have had mesh surgery worldwide, Brajcic’s fate could very well occur somewhere else. As recently as July 2017, the NHS, for example, classed “the use of mesh to treat women with SUI and POP” as “a safe option for women”. While it’s true that many mesh surgeries have been successful and have genuinely improved conditions for a number of women, the lack of research around those who have had the opposite experience warrants approaching mesh surgery with more caution.

To almost be on your deathbed at 42 because of mesh, it’s not right. We’re all fighting, we’re all at different stages and it’s terrifying

Next month, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will publish new guidance on mesh implants, with the added recommendation that they should no longer be used to treat pelvic organ prolapse, but will still be used for urinary incontinence.

It’s a step in the right direction, even if some are in favour of a complete ban on the surgeries. Because the more effort authorities put into understanding the potential side effects of vaginal-mesh implants, the less likely it’ll be that stories like Brajcic’s become commonplace. And if nothing will make people take the dangers of mesh surgeries seriously – and getting healthcare professionals to approach the issue sincerely has been an ongoing battle for many women in the past – perhaps this, the loss of a woman who stopped at nothing to give women like her a voice, will spur authorities on where our health is concerned.  

As Brajcic said in one of her final posts: “To almost be on your deathbed at 42 because of mesh, it’s not right. We’re all fighting, we’re all at different stages and it’s terrifying. I’m terrified at what we go through and I never want another woman or man dealing with mesh to go through this.”

Without immediate action against mesh, both Brajcic’s work and the work of countless women like her will be in vain. And while many of us hope against hope that that doesn’t happen, thousands of cases, sadly, suggest otherwise.

@kubared

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Chrissy Brajcic (Photo: Facebook)
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