Kim Blieschke had no idea her life would change irreparably when she was advised to undergo a “straightforward” surgery to correct pelvic organ prolapse – a complication from childbirth that results in surrounding organs to bulge or sag down into the vagina.
But moments after waking up from her transvaginal mesh implant procedure in 2006, where a web of polypropylene plastic was embedded into her vaginal wall, the mum-of-four knew “something wasn’t quite right”.
“I was in intense pain that they couldn’t control,” Kim told me over the phone from her Port Pirie home, in the South Australian countryside.
“I woke up with quite substantial bruising all over my buttocks and perineum and upper thighs. The bruises were the size of my hand.”
"It was a pain like you wouldn't believe," she said. "Doctors said I'd be in the hospital for two or three days, but I was there for seven. On the three-hour car ride home, sitting was almost unbearable."
From there, Kim's condition spiralled.
"My doctor kept saying it will be better, it will be better, but I ended up taking three months off work," she told me. "I couldn't drive, I couldn't lift, I couldn't even sweep the floor."
Doctors made Kim feel like she was imagining the pain, but as a seasoned paramedic, she knew something was awry when her vagina developed a "foul smell".
"I told my GP something wasn't quite right, and it turned out I had necrotic flesh in there."
The polypropylene - a material used to create everything from plastic chairs to water bottles - had ignited Kim's natural foreign body reaction. Her body wasn't just trying to fight the mesh, it was trying to kill it.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration says transvaginal meshes were approved by "conformity assessment certification either from a EU certification body or the TGA".
By 2014 the TGA admitted its assessment process for the mesh was not “mature” and lacked “rigour”, and subsequently announced there was “little evidence to support the overall effectiveness of these surgical meshes as a class of products”.
By 2015 - a decade after mesh was first approved for embedding within the vaginas of thousands of Australian women - 72 of the 100 mesh products on the Australian market were delisted.
Despite this, where the TGA acknowledged shortcomings of the devices, it mostly blamed "the skill and training of the surgeon and the patient selection".
While the TGA said in a statement to Channel 10 it has only received 205 adverse event reports, and "the reported rate of complications was low", Kim argues this is because the channels of reporting post-surgical problems is convoluted and lacks transparency.