Monday, February 23, 2009

Hysterectomy Anniversary - Cause For Celebration? - Yes, I'm Alive

I'm writing this post in the hope that it encourages those of you who've been putting off seeing your doctor for fear of examinations or whatever to seek advice and not continue to say "maybe it'll go away".

For the most part that's exactly what does happen, it does go away but there's always the danger that the next time you may not be so lucky. Leaving persistent symptoms of any kind to sort themselves out is really taking an unnecessary risk with your health and even your life.

In my case, thank God, the outcome was very positive but had I neglected my symptoms for much longer, who knows where I'd be now.

Eleven years ago today, by day and date since I had my Total Abdominal Hysterectomy & Bilateral Salpingo-oopherectomy, in simple english, removal of my womb, ovaries and fallopian tubes. I also had surrounding lymph nodes removed as a precaution because, as had been explained to me on the morning following my operation, had I not had the surgery when I did I would have ended up in a pre-cancer situation. (Copy of hospital letter to my GP following my discharge mentions "adenomatous hyperplasia" which I discovered is a crowding of glands which are irregular in shape and size). I also remember, groggy as I was, the surgeon telling me that my life expectancy had now gone from possibly six to eight years at most to living into my eighties! That was a shock and a half.

I was totally stupid in not doing something about my intermittent bleeding during the few years prior to my hysterectomy. Seven years earlier I had two small cysts removed from my cervix and twenty years earlier again I had a huge cyst removed from my left ovary and a smaller one from my right. I knew this bleeding was serious but I kept saying it would go away. It didn't and it got worse. After almost three weeks of continuous haemorrhaging which left me totally drained and feeling like death I eventually contacted my Haemophilia Society (I am a member because of a bleeding disorder) questioning whether my prolonged blood loss could be associated with my disorder. I was immediately ordered to head to my hospital where I received my intravenous treatment which only gave me cover for about ten hours.

However, the following evening I became quite ill, severe nausea, terrible weakness and I was bleeding yet again. As I'd been asked to return to the hospital if I'd any problems my husband and I decided it would be best to check out what was happening. To make a long story short I was admitted and remained there for six days during which my blood loss greatly increased. The resulting D&C confirmed I had a problem with my womb (including a large fibroid) that required a hysterectomy as soon as possible. I was put on the urgent list.

The following are snippets from my diary of my sixteen day stay in hospital following my hysterectomy and second operation to remove blood clot. Along with the painful, in every sense, stuff there are some very funny moments that happened along the way.

Monday, 23rd February, 1998:

"At 6.30am I was gently eased out of my slumber by some kind nurse who gave me my second pre-op antibiotic (again, up my bum)...

..It was around 8.00am when what seemed like the entire Gynae team plus the Haematology people descended upon me - one lot to go through all the gory operation stuff while the other lot chased after my blood!...

...At close on 2.00pm, the theatre trolley arrived up and as usual my nerves had to endure the short wait while my ID was being checked out. With the reassuring words of "best of luck" from my three room mates and a final wave from me to them, I headed off down the long corridor feeling how I can only imagine the condemned prisoner feels when facing the lethal injection.

When we eventually arrived on the surgical floor, I was taken to a "holding bay" area where I got the shock of my life when I saw all the other sleeping bodies on the trolleys, all looking very much like something out of a science fiction film. I honestly thought they were dead. In fact, we were all waiting our turn to be taken into the anaesthetic room...

...By the time I arrived in the operating room I was pretty much a nervous wreck, talking rubbish ninety to the dozen and generally trying to sound really funny (this is my usual way of coping with nerves). The remainder of my waking moments is somewhat blurry but I do remember having the little monitor attached to my finger, talking to the professor and receiving the muscle relaxing injection through my IV. Now it was time for me to go sleepies. Just before the syringe delivered the liquid that would finally render me senseless, I suddenly needed to remember what is was like to feel a complete woman.

Sometime between 8.00pm and 9.00pm: Arrived back on the ward (no beds in the ICU). Opened my eyes and ears to the sounds and visions of people preparing to transfer me from the trolley to my bed. I screamed out in pain each time they moved me even though they pumped me with some morphine from the machine I was attached to. Fell alseep. Woke to the sound of the professor's voice then passed out again...

Tuesday, 24th February, 1998:

There was no official waking up time. The morning continued from the night before with me still holding on for dear life to the morphine plunger, my "little friend" as I nicknamed it and slipping in and out of consciousness...

...Every so often I was aware of the nurses emptying the two drains which were coming out from both sides of my wound and also the urine bag which was attached to the catheter coming from my bladder. I was also on a saline drip through which I was receiving two antibiotics. Sometime during the evening I decided I felt like taking a short walk to see how I was doing. Very slowly, supported on either side by a nurse, I made my way from the bed to the door and out a little bit into the corridor. Painful as it was, it felt such a wonderful achievement to be able to walk at all. I was thrilled with myself and so were the nurses and I also got great cheers from my fellow room mates.

Wednesday, 25th February, 1998:

Woke up at 2.00am in absolute agony. Had to have an injection to ease the pain because, as the nurse discovered, my catheter had become blocked. It felt like my bladder was going to burst.

It was around 8.00am when I again woke up in excruciating pain, this time it was a crushing pain across my chest, shooting up into both shoulders. The nurses got me to sit out while they made the bed and it was then that I nearly passed out with the pain. Got another injection...

...I sobbed my heart out, pleading for relief from anyone who came near me, including my favourite cleaning lady. A while later the pain relief kicked in... Later on in the morning I had my catheter removed which wasn't at all as uncomfortable as I thought it would be...

...It was early afternoon when one of my haematologists informed me that my blood count was only 6. He said I was extremely pale and needed to rest and that they were organising a scan and blood transfusions...

...By the time they were ready for me I felt really sick and light-headed but that was nothing to the agony I experienced trying to settle myself on the scanning table. During the painful process the end of my left drain opened which resulted in its contents spilling out all over the floor. My night dress and dressing gown were absolutely soaked. Each time the radiographer pressed the scanner into my tummy I yelled out in pain. Within seconds the scan revealed a massive blood clot lying on top of my bladder. I remember the guy exclaiming "God, it's huge" to the nurse beside him...

...By the time I arrived back I was in agony and exhausted. Shortly afterwards I was hooked up to the first of four blood transfusions which were to make a new woman of me...

Thursday, 26th February, 1998:

Felt so much better after my four units of blood. Later I was taken down for a chest X-Ray... ...At around 1.00pm the theatre trolley arrived to once more take me to theatre to have my blood clot removed...

...Once again I found myself in the "holding-bay" area but this time I knew all those sedated figures on the trolleys were alive... ...As like Monday, my first waking memory is of being transferred from the trolley to the bed. I remember moaning a lot and wondering why I was covered with aluminium foil which must have had me resembling a turkey coming out of the oven! Slowly I began to hear a lot of machine noises around me, one of which I recognised to be an oxygen tank. A nurse told me that I needed help with my breathing as I had two anaesthetics very close to each other. The pain was dreadful even though I was once more rigged up to my morphine "friend".

At some stage hubby was sitting beside me and I was hallucinating. I could vividly see a cleaning lady, scarf on head with bucket and mop trying to clean around my bed and I actually asked hubby to move aside to let her through!. The next second she was gone... ...The remainder of the night is almost a complete blur except for the fleeting moments of consciousness when my only means of knowing I was still alive was hearing the incessant rhythmic gurgling of my pumps and a fellow patient's agonised coughing.

Friday, 27th February, 1998:

...Very soon I discovered that once more I was peeing through a tube, had two new corrugated drains in situ, was still receiving my medication through the IV and was also still attached to my morphine "friend"...

...At around 7.00pm hubby and the children came up to see me. It was only one week since I'd seen the boys but it felt like an eternity so I treasured every minute and was proud to introduce them to my room-mates.

Saturday, 28th February, 1998:

The early part of the day is a complete blank except for the time when they removed my catheter and disconnected the drip. Now I was a free woman again...

Sunday, 1st March, 1998:

...Just after tea-time we had a new lady admitted. She was a great talker but sadly (for us) she also had a bit of a hearing problem. One of my room-mates's reaction to her constant chatter, not to mention her flicking through the TV channels, had to be witnessed to be appreciated. For me, it was the best tonic ever...

...In the evening a couple of friends called in and said they'd been to see The Full Monty and strongly recommended seeing it as it was hilarious but I knew it would be some time before my newly acquired wound would allow that kind of laughter... ...Later my bowel was again in uproar. Between the post-op pain, the soreness in my bladder and the wind and continuous cramp in my gut, I was in horrendous agony...

...later conversation with my two other friends was hilarious with me wondering if my hormone implant was really a tracking device or worse still, the surgeon who implanted it was probably an alien who was researching how us human beings function (no doubt the double lot of morphine had taken its toll on the old brain!).

Monday, 2nd March, 1998:

On waking, felt very nauseated along with terrible wind pains in my lower tummy. At one stage I was actually crying with the discomfort and asked the nurse for anything...

Tuesday, 3rd March, 1998:

When the nurse went to remove one of my corrugated drains it was missing!. My own feeling was that it had made its way inside me because it had not been secured on the outside... ...If the whole thing hadn't been so very serious it would have been extremely funny. By now the nurse, doctor and myself were searching the bed for the elusive drain, with suggestions of its whereabouts coming thick and fast from all concerned. Panic was beginning to set in as the doctor informed us that if it had made its way inside me then I would have to have it removed under local anaesthetic! This I was not looking forward to so desperate measures were now called for.

After doctor went outside, nurse returned and we frantically searched the bed again but to no avail. Having decided that it must be in my belly she proceeded to clean the wound in the usual way. As soon as the scissors holding the piece of gauze moved across the drain site, she could feel something hard underneath. Relief, followed closely by terror, would aptly describe my reaction.

Nurse asked if I would like if she tried removing the drain and without hesitation I gave her the go ahead. Anything, to avoid going through another, even if very small, surgical procedure. So, with me desperately trying to distract myself by intently watching Sky News and gritting my teeth, nurse, quick as a flash, whipped out the mislaid drain.

Wednesday, 4th March, 1998:

After breakfast I decided to chance taking a shower as my hair was in a dreadful state. My favourite nurse came in with me and set things up. I was absolutely terrified the wound would open but she was brilliant and helped me overcome my fear. She stayed with me 'till I got used to the water then left me for a while but checked in every couple of minutes.

One of my room-mates got the news she'd been waiting for - she was going home. Dancing around the place like a two year old, she had everyone falling around laughing and within jig time of getting her news, she was dressed and rearing to go. We were all so happy for her... ...By lunch time I was beginning to feel anxious about losing my friend as she had become a mother figure for me...

Thursday, 5th March, 1998:

As per usual the phlebotomist had a dreadful time trying to get my blood because of my awful veins. By now my hands and arms were black and blue, both from IV lines and blood tests... ...I'm not sure if I became exhausted because of the operation or because I was feeling a bit depressed but I just wanted to be left alone to rest.

Friday, 6th March, 1998:

Another battle with my veins. The poor phlebotomist was more upset than I was because by now there didn't seem to be a vein left anywhere that could produce blood... ...I was delighted to see hubby as by then I was feeling very insecure and lonely for my "old" room-mates...

Saturday, 7th March, 1998:

...When hubby arrived at around 2.00pm, I was all excited about going home the next day... ...Before he left I decided that I wanted to see if I could walk up and down the stairs, so we went out onto the stairway and I managed (very slowly) to scale the dizzy heights of one section of steps without any serious damage to the body...

Sunday, 8th March, 1998:

...While I was waiting for the doctor's discharge letter I packed the remainder of my things then began saying my farewells to my new room-mates and during all of that, hubby arrived.

On reaching the nurses' station I couldn't wait to hug my favourite nurse. She'd been so kind and sympathetic just when I needed her. She was indeed a true ministering angel. She organised my letter and antibiotic prescription and gave me some antibiotics to keep me going for a couple of days plus a bunch of sterile dressings for my wound. My haemotologists were also at the desk and wished me all the best.

While slowly making my way down the corridor with hubby I was aware that I was still wearing my slippers simply because I didn't fancy having to get into a pair of shoes. I waited in the hallway while hubby drove the car up to the door and during those couple of minutes I thanked God for this moment because, if it hadn't been for the prompt action of the haemotologists, circumstances might have been a lot different".

When my hormone implant ran out one year later I decided not to have it replaced or to take HRT. Instead I relied solely on my Evening Primrose Oil of which I increased the quantity to 2000mg daily.

Above image via Wikipedia.



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