GAI Thompson addressed an email to her local MP before she drained her superannuation fund and flew to America on Mother's Day to have pelvic mesh devices implanted in 2008 removed.
In the email Mrs Thompson said she wanted to gain relief from "this mesh that is destroying my health, mind and body because I truly can't live like this anymore".
"My hope is that I could arrange an appointment with your office to discuss what could be done for all mesh injured women... to hold the pharmaceutical companies, Therapeutic Goods Administration and surgeons responsible for what they have done," she wrote.
Mrs Thompson, 55, received a sympathetic email in response, with a copy of Health Minister Greg Hunt's apology in October, 2018 to thousands of Australian mesh-injured women, in which he acknowledged "horrific outcomes" for some.
At the airport one of her daughters thought she would never see her mother alive again, after Australian specialists emphasised the risks of her full removal surgery, including the permanent loss of her bladder and bowel, or death.
But it was a Newcastle gynaecologist's assessment in March that led her to fly to America for surgery with a doctor who has removed mesh devices from more than 2000 women, including 50 Australians.
The Newcastle gynaecologist wrote to her GP: "I think Gai has little choice but to proceed with removal" after years of chronic infections that left her resistant to most antibiotics, but with a warning that "I have attempted to emphasise the unknown results and outcome".
Mrs Thompson wept in a subsequent meeting with her GP, saying: "I don't care if I die; I don't want to, but I don't want to live like this anymore".
She survived the six-hour surgery on May 17 to remove a pig-based pelvic mesh device that wrapped around her bowel and prevented a normal bowel movement for 11 years, and a large Johnson & Johnson mesh device that hospital notes said left severe scarring and damage in "every space and segment of the pelvic floor".
But the long-term consequences of her mesh surgery, including incontinence and severe pain, remain devastating, severe and irreversible. If she met with senior government ministers today she would tell them Australian mesh-injured women have been abandoned by governments whose responses to the mesh scandal have been ad hoc, piecemeal and inadequate, she said.
The Federal Government declined a Senate inquiry recommendation to conduct a national audit of the unknown number of Australian women implanted with mesh devices since the late 1980s, believed to be more than 100,000, to confirm how many are experiencing mesh complications and are struggling to deal with them.
It was a responsibility for state governments, the Federal Government said in its formal response to the Senate inquiry in October.
The only state to carry out a limited audit of seven hospitals in late 2018, South Australia, found 37 per cent of women implanted with pelvic mesh devices, including slings for incontinence, returned for further treatment because of complications and symptoms an average three years after surgery. Their average age was 60. The figure is much higher than complication rates of 5 or 10 per cent cited for many mesh devices.
The South Australian audit expected more than 90 women each year would need access to a multi-disciplinary unit recommended by the Senate inquiry. But the state does not even have a working urogynaecologist. Women have already been advised they will be transferred to Melbourne for surgery, including partial or full removals.
Mrs Thompson's decision to have her mesh removed by American specialist Dionysios Veronikis is derided by many Australian gynaecologists, who say the 50 Australian women who have made the same decision could have had full mesh removals here.
But Mrs Thompson, who listed and named more than 20 Australian gynaecologists, urogynaecologists and other specialists she has seen in the past decade, produced letters showing doctors recommended full mesh removal, but warned of the high risk she would lose her bladder and bowel and spend the rest of her life needing colostomy and urinary bags.
She was horrified by the attitude of some Australian doctors with little experience in mesh removal.
"One doctor told me he'd have a go at taking it out, as if my life is something he could just 'have a go' with," she said.
Mesh Injured Australia founder Justine Watson and Australian Pelvic Mesh Support Group founder Caz Chisholm also flew to America to have their mesh removed by Dr Veronikis.
"Would you go to someone who's done more than 2000 of these procedures or would you go to your local surgeon, particularly when you've already been traumatised and in many cases permanently injured by doctors working in the health system here," Ms Watson said.
"It's about trust at the end of the day, and the problem for too many doctors is that women just don't trust them because they can't. Too many doctors are still saying mesh is okay, they're still looking at us as if we're hysterical women, but too many women have lost everything. I lost everything because of mesh."
Mrs Thompson said the trip to America was "the most scary thing I've ever done".
"You literally are flying over to the other side of the world, you're meeting a doctor for the very first time, it's required all your savings or all your super, you say goodbye to your family at the airport and you're saying 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry' because your family is scared too," she said.
Dr Veronikis's surgical notes described the removal of Mrs Thompson's mesh as "very very complicated and very very difficult surgery requiring extra time and effort", with damage due to "multiple partial revisions" of the mesh and "scarring from the mesh in every space and segment of the pelvic floor".
The Johnson & Johnson Prolift mesh, one of the largest mesh devices, was "clumped and bunched and the arms were rolled and corded", Dr Veronikis said.
"The entire mesh was deformed and significantly scarred."
Mrs Thompson is one of 1350 women registered in a landmark NSW Supreme Court class action against Johnson & Johnson where a decision is due in the near future.
The gynaecologist who implanted Mrs Thompson's devices in 2008 was engaged and paid by Johnson & Johnson to give evidence in the court case.
Mrs Thompson spent five weeks in America for the surgery and recovery before returning home in mid June.
"I'm sure a lot of people don't even believe it's possible for these kinds of things to happen, and for there to be noone at the end to be held accountable," she said.
"It's not until you're in the system and something goes wrong that you see all the inadequacies of it, and how badly you're treated when the doctors and the regulators just walk away."
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists acknowledged "the distress that some women have experienced" and "extends its utmost sympathy". It was "actively supportive of better training and regulation", a spokesperson said.
It did not respond to Newcastle Herald questions about how women could ensure a doctor has experience with the full removal of different mesh devices, given the lack of transparency about doctor's histories and complaints. It did not respond to a question about whether it has established a credentialing process for doctors undertaking mesh implantation and removal.