Vaginal mesh campaigner 'dies of sepsis after antibiotic-resistant infection'

Chrissy Brajcic suffered from chronic infections after she was implanted with the scandal-hit mesh 

Harriet Marsden
Monday 04 December 2017 21:46 GMT

A well-known campaigner against vaginal mesh procedures has died from sepsis, it has been reported.

Christina Brajcic, 42, of Ontario, Canada, is believed to be the first woman to die in what has become known as the vaginal mesh scandal, which Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke called “the new thalidomide”.

Her death comes just a week after the UK-based National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended banning vaginal mesh as a routine treatment for prolapse.

Professor Carl Heneghan, an expert in medical device regulation, says this essentially amounts to a “backdoor-ban” – but that it had come too late to help the thousands of women whose lives have been irreparably damaged.

The insertion of a plastic mesh device to treat hernia, prolapse and incontinence – in particular, the transvaginal mesh procedure, used on around 10,000 UK women a year – has come under increasing public scrutiny as reports have emerged of high rates of complication and inadequate medical trialling.

Women have been left unable to work, walk or even sit down after complications, including chronic pain, organ erosion and perforations, nerve damage and loss of sexual function. Some have reported feeling suicidal – all as a result of a treatment often performed for minor incontinence.

After her second son was born four years ago, interior designer Ms Brajcic was implanted with a polypropylene mesh TVT (tension-free vaginal tape), the most commonly prescribed in the UK, to treat mild incontinence: “a gold standard, minimally invasive” procedure.

But just a few hours after her surgery, she explained to CTV W5, “The pain got worse, and worse, and worse, and finally it was like my insides were ripping out.”

The surgery left her bedridden, suffering nerve damage and constant pain. A year later, she received a five-hour operation to remove the mesh device – which, as they are designed to be permanent, had to be extracted piece by piece. Afterwards, she was treated in hospital at least once a month for related urinary tract infections, and eventually became resistant to the antibiotics she was receiving.

By the end of October, Ms Brajcic was readmitted to hospital suffering from sepsis, a life-threatening bodily response to infection that can end in organ failure.

On 15 November, she posted on Facebook: “Funny how after going septic and almost dying now I’m getting respect and being treated well by doctors. All it took was dying to get better care and better pain management. I will take it...its better then fighting for my care.”

On Wednesday, according to her husband Tony, “her heart stopped”. The family await the results from a toxicology exam, but believe that her death can be linked directly related to her mesh.

Ms Brajcic had already launched a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, the company that made her device, joining thousands of Canadian and American women and 800 in the UK who are already involved in litigation against various mesh providers.

She also campaigned relentlessly against mesh procedures, selling T-shirts and ribbons to raise awareness and funds for sufferers.

In October, Labour MP Emma Hardy brought the issue to Parliament, with a cross-party group demanding a suspension pending full investigation into the scandal. However, minister for care and mental health, Jackie Doyle-Price, ruled out a public inquiry or a suspension.

The week Ms Brajcic died, Australia’s medical regulatory body, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), banned mesh as a treatment for POP (pelvic organ prolapse), saying in a statement that “the benefits of using transvaginal mesh products do not outweigh the risks to the patient”.

Former Scottish health secretary Alex Neil recently described the issue as a “global catastrophe” and is calling for an international summit. Back in 2014, officials in Scotland called for all mesh devices to be banned, including those used to treat hernias.

Kath Sansom, founder of Sling the Mesh, a prominent campaign group fighting the treatment in the UK, told The Independent: “Chrissy must not die in vain. Her death has shocked and upset women around the world. She only had a mild stress incontinence problem from childbirth and physio probably could have fixed it. Now she has lost her life. This is wrong in every way. This is shocking.”

Sansom, who has launched a Just Giving page to raise money for Ms Brajcic’s children, added: “Many women in groups globally are close to being antibiotic-resistant – and then what? Benefits do not outweigh the risks of this operation. It’s time to say enough is enough.”

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