“I’ve been told that I need to be quiet sometimes. They can take my sex life, they can take my job, they can take my farm, but they’re not going to take my voice.”
After giving birth at the age of 41, Tammy Jackson began to leak from her bladder while at work. Her doctor suggested a transvaginal mesh implant, which he described as a simple 45-minute procedure. That’s when Tammy’s nightmare began: instead of solving her problems, the mesh caused a slew of new ones, including pain, discomfort, and severe fatigue.
Eventually, Tammy found a doctor who said there was a problem with her mesh. But he told her, he was only trained to put mesh in, not take it out. Mesh is designed to be a permanent implant, and removing it can be dangerous, if not impossible. Tammy had a partial mesh removal, but her health complications have continued.
Tammy found that the mesh not only caused her physical pain, but also impacted her ability to be the wife and mother she longed to be. As someone who previously used to water ski, ride dirt bikes, and had even skydived and scuba dived, she suddenly didn’t even have the energy to play with her daughter, who in turn wondered if she was to blame for Tammy’s condition. Mesh also interfered with Tammy’s ability to be sexually intimate with her husband, Byron.
Despite all of these hardships, rather than turning inwards, Tammy felt compelled to help others with similar experiences. She and Byron became leaders in a support group founded by Lisa Mason on Facebook, Mesh Awareness Movement, for mesh survivors and their partners. She wanted the group to provide a space for partners, like Byron, to also be able to find community. “It’s hard for men to talk about,” she explains in The Bleeding Edge. “This is a safe place for us.”
Today, Mesh Awareness Movement (MAM) provides resources and support for mesh survivors and their loved ones. In addition, MAM has grown to be a platform for grassroots activism against the multinational corporations that manufacture this dangerous product. Alongside Lisa, Tammy has led rallies across the country, calling for better testing of devices and for corporate accountability for the hundreds of thousands of women harmed by mesh. In 2017, Tammy led a day-long protest outside the Johnson & Johnson’s shareholders meeting, gathering survivors from around the country and demanding the company consider the women as more than just “the cost of doing business”. She fearlessly asked stockholders as they entered the building, if they knew “they were investing in women’s pain and suffering”.
Tammy recently had to have a kidney removed because of ongoing complications from her mesh, and is in declining health. However, she is still a leader in the fight against mesh, and recently even helped host a screening of The Bleeding Edge in Independence, Kentucky (her home state). Tammy wishes there weren’t so many people experiencing the pain of dealing with a mesh implant, but she’s grateful for a space for survivors to come together and advocate for their right for safe medical care. She has told the filmmakers of The Bleeding Edge that she will never stop fighting to protect women and to stop the sale and use of pelvic mesh.
Watch Tammy Jackson tell her powerful story in the Netflix Original documentary, The Bleeding Edge, available on July 27.