Mum continues to suffer after post-birth operation goes wrong…
By Bonny Burrows
A gravely ill Officer mother-of-two is in a race against the clock to raise awareness about the deadly surgery that has left her in debilitating pain.
After the birth of her children, Shauna Cahill experienced what one in three women will – bladder incontinence – and, like most sufferers, she remained silent out of embarrassment.
But sick of peeing each time she laughed, Shauna finally sought medical advice in 2015 – almost 10 years after giving birth – and was diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse (POP).
What happened next was supposed to be a simple surgery, which included a hysterectomy, bowel and bladder prolapse repair and a sling insertion.
But little did Shauna know, the mesh inserted to treat the prolapse was slowly eroding away her organs and could cost her life.
Despite being banned in Scotland for its side effects and being the subject of a number of class action lawsuits, transvaginal mesh implants are still commonly used in Australia, the United States and the rest of the United Kingdom.
Shauna said the mesh was recommended by doctors and that she took the advice without a second thought.
However, she immediately regretted it.
“I knew late that same day, when I was still in hospital, that something wasn’t right,” Shauna said.
Since the surgery she has been left in constant excruciating groin, vaginal and pelvic pain, which she describes as a seven to eight out of 10 on a good day.
She also still suffers from incontinence.
Shauna has not been the same since and neither have her children.
Gone are the days of going for a run, playing with her children or vacuuming her house.
Her 10-year-old son Mak now takes his mum to the toilet, while daughter Suni, 8, bears the pain of watching her mum suffer.
Watching their mum go through surgery after surgery in an attempt to remove the entire mesh implant with no success, the children feel beyond helpless as their mum fades away before their eyes.
“It’s sad. I hate it, it sucks. I want her to get better, it’s not fair,” Mak said through tears.
Shauna said it breaks her heart to see the pain her condition is causing her children.
There’s guilt in her eyes as her children weep quietly on the couch, all too aware of their mum’s condition.
“I feel bad, like I’m robbing their childhood,” she said.
It’s for that reason that Shauna and her children are speaking out.
Too exhausted to fight the legal system, Shauna is using what little strength she has to better inform women of POP, mesh implants and the associated risks.
“It’s sh*t right now but everything happens for a reason,” Shauna said.
“I don’t want it to happen to someone else.”
She made a guest appearance on national news program The Project in late April and has a Facebook page, Shauna’s Best Chance, where she and friend Amanda document her journey.
Mak has also created a moving video of the impact the mesh implant has had on the family.
Already, in just a few weeks, the family’s willingness to speak out has prevented a number of women from undergoing the procedure.
“After The Project, the mesh Facebook page was inundated with requests,” Shauna said.
“And a few women have told me they’ve decided against the surgery.”
While sparing others from the risk of a similar fate, in the next few weeks Shauna will undergo her fifth operation in a bid to remove the remaining material.
It’s another $10,000 out-of-pocket expense for the family and the procedure carries the risk of life-long nerve damage.
However that is a risk that Shauna has to take for herself, for other women, for her children.
“This has happened to me, but it does not need to happen to anyone else,” Shauna said.
“There are other options, please look into it further.”
For more information on POP and the mesh surgery, visit the Shauna’s Best Chance Facebook page.
A fund-raising page has also been set up for Shauna’s surgery expenses, and can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/shaunas-best-chance.