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Queensland mum-of-five’s simple wish leads to lifelong pain

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Queensland mum-of-five Kathy Robertson-Cipak waited seven years on the public hospital waiting list to have the surgery that was touted as the “miracle cure” for her incontinence.

Queensland mum-of-five Kathy Robertson-Cipak had a simple wish.

"All I wanted to do was jump on the trampoline with my kids and I couldn't do that," she said.

She waited seven years on the public hospital waiting list to have the surgery that was touted as the "miracle cure" for her incontinence.

There were no signs, she said, that the operation she was about to finally have in March 2018 would irrevocably change the course of her life - leaving her in constant and unending pain.

"When I went in to see my surgeon, she didn't mention the word plastic or mesh at all. She said tape. I will never, ever forget it, she said, 'It's not the mesh that people are talking about'.

"But because I had never heard the word mesh before, I didn't question her, and I have never forgiven myself for that.

"I thought fine, she is putting some tape in. She is lifting my bladder up and I'm never going to wet my pants again. If I sneeze, cough, jump on something I am not going to wet."

Kathy Robertson-Cipak has been pushing for a class action against medical manufacturer Boston Scientific in Australia.

If you have been affected by a recent mesh surgery? Contact reporter Emily McPherson at

However, Ms Robertson-Cipak's medical files would later reveal it was plastic mesh that was implanted inside her - a product made by medical manufacturer Boston Scientific.

"Straight away after the operation I was in agony. It was horrific, excruciating - there was this absolute tightness, like there was in clamp inside my intestines," she said.

Months after the operation, Ms Robertson-Cipak said she was still in pain.

"I was bleeding for months … I was wearing nappies. I was going through two a day.

"It had already cut my husband's penis when we attempted to have sex."

A scan in July would reveal that the mesh had cut Ms Robertson-Cipak on the inside.

"It cut open my uterus. There is also a massive cyst inside there that wasn't there before the operation," she said.

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At Ms Robertson-Cipak's insistence, doctors removed her mesh implant in March last year, however, the pain continued, she said.

Often it is so bad she can't leave her bed.

"I can't explain being in constant pain all the time. My vagina feels like I have a clamp sitting there on the outside and the inside," she said.

"I have gained weight because I can't go for a run anymore. But I am nothing compared to some of the other ladies who are completely bedridden, crippled and using walkers to walk, it's horrific."

Sydney firm to launch class-action lawsuit against Boston Scientific

Ms Robertson-Cipak's operation took place almost a year after horrific stories of the impacts of mesh implants began making headlines in Australia.

By the end of 2017 and into 2018, different mesh products were being recalled from the market, including three made by Boston Scientific.

The mesh product used in Ms Robertson-Cipak's case was not recalled, however in early 2018 the TGA ordered the company to add warnings about possible adverse side effects such as severe chronic pain, groin pain and bladder perforation.

In the US, women banded together to take companies like Johnson & Johnson, American Medical Systems and Boston Scientific to court in class actions.

In Australia, a 2018 Senate inquiry concluded surgery with mesh, which it estimated had been performed on about 150,000 women in Australia, should be a "last resort". 

A massive class action was brought by Shine Lawyers on behalf of 1350 women in the Federal Court against Johnson & Johnson and two subsidiaries, including Ethicon.

Johns and Johnson lose class action lawsuit

In March this year, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay almost $2.6 million in damages to the three lead applicants in the case.

The class action is now subject to an appeal lodged by Johnson & Johnson which will be heard next year.

At the same time all of this was going on, Ms Robertson-Cipak got to work on social media, gathering together more than 40 Australian women who say they were also injured by Boston Scientific mesh products.

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Amid the high-profile Johnson & Johnson case, Ms Robertson-Cipak said she and the other women felt like their plight was being ignored.

Ms Robertson-Cipak began ringing around law firms, hoping one would take them on with a class action against Boston Scientific.

"What I want is justice, justice for what their product has done, not just to me but many, many more," she said.

Now, Ms Robertson-Cipak looks set to get her day in court, with Sydney law firm AJB Stevens confirming it is preparing to launch a class action case against the Australian arm of Boston Scientific in the Federal Court early next year.

Director Adrian Barakat said the firm was confident of prosecuting a successful class action against Boston Scientific and already had about 60 women who expressed interest in joining the class action.

Once the case got underway, Mr Barakat said he expected the number of class members to swell into the hundreds.

Like successful class actions brought against Boston Scientific in the US and Canada, the Australian class action will allege Boston Scientific knew about side effects being caused by its products but failed to warn doctors of the risks.

"We know that Boston Scientific were aware of problems with their products from as early as 2000," Mr Barakat said.

"In Australia, we know that from late 2017, there were actions issued by the TGA for various Boston Scientific products to be discontinued.

"For the ones that weren't discontinued there were directives put forward for additional cautions to be placed on labelling from January 2018."

In a statement to, a spokesperson for Boston Scientific said: "It is our practice not to comment on pending litigation. Patient safety is always our highest priority, and we stand by the safety and quality of our products. Boston Scientific remains committed to helping women, and all patients, live better and longer lives."

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Last year, US health regulators ordered Boston Scientific to stop selling surgical mesh used in pelvic repair surgeries, saying there isn't enough evidence that the product embroiled in thousands of lawsuits is safe or effective.

AJB Stevens is now looking for a lead applicant for the class action and women who had a transvaginal implant made by Boston Scientific and suffered detrimental sides effects are being encouraged to come forward.

Mr Barakat said there were still many women who were either unaware that mesh had been put inside them during surgery or that it was the mesh implant that was causing their health problems.

"What we have found is that there are women who just don't know what their rights are. Our focus at the moment is making sure that the manufacturers of these implants are held to account so that these women get justice.," he said.

'My life will never be what it was'

Elise Taylor, from Lismore in NSW, is another woman looking to take on Boston Scientific in court.

Ms Taylor, 52, had a mesh implant put in to deal with a pelvic organ prolapse in 2015.

Elise Taylor is looking to join a class action lawsuit against mesh maker Boston Scientific.

The TGA has since said the specific type of implant placed inside her should not be used for pelvic organ prolapses because the benefit of the treatment does not outweigh the risks.

Ms Taylor said the mesh implant ruined her life.

Unable to work because of constant pain, she is now reliant on the disability support pension.

"My life will never be what it was and my future will never be what it should be," she said.

"I have reached the point over the last few years where I can no longer be sexually active because of the pain. I can't work in my previous job.

"It's so hard to explain the level of debilitation and how it continues.

Contact reporter Emily McPherson at

Source: 9News

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