In 1985, Ray Gray was in the prime of his life.
An active and sporty 22 year old, he loved nothing more than hitting the beaches of Sydney to swim and surf.
He was then injured on the job while working as a warehouseman and packer.
A groin hernia needed surgery, but doctors assured him that they would repair it with a revolutionary new procedure.
“They said we’re going to put this mesh in, that it’s going to fix the hole without worries, it’s a new technique,” Gray said.
“I still have the letter from the surgeon saying that I was one of the first in Australia to do this. “
But the surgery was unsuccessful and the hernia reopened.
Over the next 17 years, Gray underwent seven more hernia mesh operations.
“Doctors would just say that another hernia has opened and we have to go back in,” he said.
“None of the operations were successful. I still have a hernia; it’s pretty big right now. I can only walk 20-30 meters and then I need to sit down and it hurts a lot.
“All my mesh pieces are still on me and I have 32 titanium staples on my hip.”
Gray said she always suspected the mesh was behind the constant pain she had been living with since her first operation.
“I felt like something wasn’t right as soon as they put the mesh in. There was a burning pain and it’s still there,” she said.
“When I walk I can feel something scraping like sandpaper in my gut and I’m pretty sure it’s mesh.”
Gray, now 58, has been unable to work for 17 years and receives a disability support pension.
“I’d say I’ve lost about 75 percent of my life. I’m in constant pain, 24/7. I can’t stand up. When it’s really bad, I’m in bed for days. “, said.
Gray is among a growing number of men and women who say their plight with hernia mesh has been ignored, as the focus continues on the horrible side effects that some women have experienced with pelvic mesh implants.
“I don’t think there is an awareness that hernia mesh can create the same complications as pelvic mesh,” he said.
“It is not just a women’s problem or a pelvic mesh problem. For some reason, men and women with hernia mesh are not heard. They have forgotten us.”
Pelvic mesh implants were the subject of a Senate investigation in 2018, which found that the devices should only be used as a last resort due to the potential for crippling side effects.
At the time, then-Senator Derryn Hinch declared it “one of the biggest medical scandals” involving Australian women.
The research led to the establishment of a specialized pelvic mesh clinic on the Gold Coast and the introduction of mandatory adverse event reporting by clinicians.
But the Senate investigation did not investigate the side effects of hernia mesh implants, which have been used for much longer.
Kay-Cee Hall, a mother of two from Rockhampton in Queensland, told nine.com.au that she had been crippled by a mesh implanted for an umbilical hernia in 2015.
However, Hall, 32, said that as soon as attorneys discovered her case did not involve pelvic mesh, they told her they couldn’t help her.
“I started calling the law firms. They ask me if my mesh is transvaginal. When I say ‘no,’ they say, ‘We’re not taking any of those,'” he said.
“I want to say, ‘What are those?’ Everything is mesh. “
Nine.com.au understands that the Maurice Blackburn law firm has been investigating a possible class action lawsuit against the manufacturers of some hernia mesh devices, however it has not yet made a decision on whether to proceed.
Meanwhile, in the US, manufacturers have settled more than 50,000 hernia mesh lawsuits worth more than a billion dollars.
The Consumers Health Council of Australia says that nearly 100,000 Australians are hospitalized for hernias each year.
However, the number of patients who go on to have pelvic mesh implants is unknown and they have a negative impact.
A survey published last year by the Victoria Health Issues Center found that 183 patients reported significant problems with their hernia mesh implants, 70 percent of whom were men.
Request research on hernia mesh
Brisbane man Shane Cook underwent a hernia operation in 2016.
Cook said she had such severe pain in the months and years after the operation that she needed to take extremely strong pain relievers, including methadone.
“I was laying on the bed and it got to the point where I didn’t even want to be here because every little movement left me in agony,” he said.
He said he contacted the Gold Coast mesh clinic, the Queensland Pelvic Mesh Service, for help, only to be told they couldn’t see hernia mesh patients.
Surgeons in Queensland advised Cook not to undergo the complicated surgery to remove the mesh, but said he was determined to have it removed.
In December last year, she flew to Sydney to have the mesh removed by a surgeon.
Since then, Cook said his condition had improved markedly.
“Before it was removed, I couldn’t even walk. I was in a rollator for about a year,” he said.
“Now, I’m walking. I’m not 100 percent better, but I’m getting there.”
Cook, who describes his experience as “medical torture,” said he had begun lobbying politicians since his recovery in hopes of gaining more support for people injured with hernias.
“I think there should be a Senate investigation for hernia mesh like the one that was done on the transvaginal mesh,” he said.
“Something has to be done. I want them to stop putting those things on other people.”
The number of adverse events related to mesh injuries is considered underreported, as heard in the 2018 Senate investigation.
Since 2006, the Therapeutic Products Administration (TGA) has received 903 event reports for mesh devices: 713 adverse event reports for pelvic mesh and 190 adverse event reports for all other surgical mesh, including mesh for hernias
Next month, pelvic or transvaginal meshes will receive a ‘high risk’ Class III rating from the TGA, meaning manufacturers will have to meet stricter criteria.
In December of next year, all other surgical meshes, including hernia mesh, will also be classified as Class III.
Contact reporter Emily McPherson at [email protected]