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Julie Knight anger after treatment at Benenden Hospital

A women says controversial surgery that left her vulnerable to infection and dependent on using a catheter has ruined her life.

Mum-of-three Julie Knight decided to speak out as a warning to other women to avoid the surgery that she says has robbed her of her health.

She thought she was getting state-of-the-art treatment at Benenden Hospital when she was fitted with a trans-vaginal mesh.

Julie Knight says she regrets having the operation that was meant to help her
Julie Knight says she regrets having the operation that was meant to help her

The 56-year-old needed the surgery to treat a prolapsed bladder, which occurs when the organ moves out of place, a condition affecting women who have given birth when muscles and ligaments are weakened.

Julie, who lives in St Michael’s, Tenterden, had her first operation at Benenden Hospital in 2009, when she says she was informed she was taking part in a medical trial.

“I was told I was lucky to be offered the surgery as it cost twice as much as traditional surgery, but it was the new, modern way of doing things. I felt good about it.”

Julie quickly signed up for the surgery but some months later she experienced bladder leakage and soon found herself back on the operating table at Benenden, under the care of the late surgeon Mohammed Mossa.

The mum said that when she signed the consent form, the procedure was described as “TVTO” but while she assumed she was having corrective surgery, in fact a second piece of mesh, which looks like a net, had been fitted inside her.

After the second operation the problems worsened and Julie returned to the hospital to learn the implant had started to break away.

“The mesh was eroding out of me,” said Julie.

"I was besides myself to learn that another piece of mesh had been inserted.”

Surgery being performed. Library image
Surgery being performed. Library image

The part-time worker said the surgery affected her relationship and that intimacy was nearly impossible because of the razor-like mesh inside her.

She was referred to a London hospital and had the two implants removed in November 2016, with her surgeon describing the mesh as “hard, breaking up and curling up” inside her.

Julie returned home with a catheter in place and unable to pass urine.

Although she is now able to pass urine normally, Julie began to get infections as her bladder does not fully empty, so she still has to catheterise herself two or three times a day.

Julie complained to Benenden’s medical director John Giles about her treatment but says she felt belittled when Mr Giles referred to her experiences as a “tale of woe”.

She said: “I wish I’d never had the operation done. I now have to self catheterise several times a day and I will do for the rest of my life.

“It affects trying to have a relationship and it’s on my mind from when I get up to when I go to bed.”

Benerden Hospital. Picture: John Brown
Benerden Hospital. Picture: John Brown

She added: “I was told I was the lucky one to be offered the surgery but it has ruined my life.”

A woman who experienced complications after being fitted with a trans-vaginal mesh at Benenden Hospital by Mr Mossa has got the go-ahead to sue the estate of the dead surgeon.

The woman was fitted with the mesh to treat an incontinence problem in 2007 but later developed serious problems after the mesh eroded, resulting in her having a hysterectomy in 2013.

Despite that, she continues to suffer ongoing symptoms, London’s High Court heard last month.

The woman brought a claim for damages against Mohammed Mossa alleging the doctor failed to provide enough information about the mesh product used and didn’t give advice on alternative treatment options.

After Mr Mossa died in 2015, she continued her lawsuit against his estate – which is contesting the claim.

"I wish I'd never had the operation done... it's on my mind from when I get up to when I go to bed" - Julie Knight

Defence lawyers argued it was “too late” for her to sue, particularly as Mr Mossa was no longer alive to defend himself.

But, despite “gaps” in the evidence, Mrs Justice Yip has opened the way for her to press ahead with her claim.

Trans-vaginal mesh surgery hit the headlines earlier this year when it was revealed hundreds of women were bringing legal action against the NHS and the makers of the products after suffering complications.

The implants are used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence, mainly after childbirth, but some can become embedded into the vagina, causing severe pain and discomfort.

Claire Harley, left, director of patient services, said: “Benenden Hospital Trust are aware of the issues in relation to vaginal mesh and are pro-actively working with our patients to assist them by providing all relevant information as part of the concerns that have been raised nationally.

"Should any patient be concerned about procedures they have undergone at Benenden Hospital, they are able to call us on 01580 240333.

“While we are not able to discuss individual cases due to patient confidentiality, we are sorry to hear that Julie Knight does not feel that she was treated sympathetically, with care and understanding.

"We would like to reassure any former patients that patient care and welfare is always top of our agenda – and that we would welcome those who have concerns to get in touch.”

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