I am 48 years old with 4 children. I have always been fortunate to have nice normal periods but this changed around 3 years ago when they became heavy with clotting and dragging pain. I didn’t take too much notice and it wasn’t as debilitating as some other women’s stories that I have read. Around the same time, sexual intercourse became uncomfortable moving towards painful and then extremely painful. I also had stress incontinence so avoided my previously active aerobic lifestyle as I had some embarrassments but couldn’t avoid laughing or coughing of course.
I visited my GP in January of 2016, mainly because of the painful sex which I had now been avoiding for months. A trans vaginal scan later that month showed a grapefruit sized single fibroid which also obscured my right ovary. A referral was made to a gynaecologist in April and an abdominal hysterectomy was the only solution to my problem. I got the spiel that it was a straightforward procedure, thousands of women have it done every year etc. I actually asked to think about it as it seemed drastic and although my husband reassured me that the sex thing was ok, I was worried it would eventually affect our relationship, how could it not? A week later, I emailed the consultant to say I would have it done. I would be months on the list and could always change my mind.
On 2nd June 2016, just 6 weeks after my consultation, I received a phone call that my procedure was booked for Thursday 9th June. No prep time, maybe that’s a good thing I thought, gets it over with quickly.
I had the surgery as planned on the morning of 9th June. I had my womb, my right ovary and cervix removed. I have to say, all staff involved in care were fantastic-one positive, although I can’t shake the feeling that the senior consultant is a sadist, silly I know but read on.
I woke in recovery in some pain, woozy, felt sick, cold, dry mouth and very sore throat. I had a spinal block and a GA so I was numb from the waist down but could still feel some pain. Given pain relief and was back on ward within 3 hours.
I had a great nights sleep, just my throat bothered me. I drank loads of water and ate a little.The next morning, my catheter was taken out and soon after I gingerly got out of bed. Weak and a bit tender but ok. Having a wee hurt a lot, urine was measured and ok.
Back in bed, I involuntarily coughed and felt a cold sensation on my legs. I lifted the blanket and there was blood everywhere, it was gently pulsing out of my incision like a gentle wave. By the time nurses came, it was dripping on the floor but I was quite calm. A doctor and 3 nurses all pressing pressure dressings on the incision. Pushing down for what seemed like ages and eventually the bleeding ceased. I had a complete bed bath and bed change and that action started the bleeding again, more pressure, more dressings.
Later on and the next day I was in agony, I felt like I had been kicked repeatedly in the abdomen and vagina. I could barely walk. Bloods were taken daily and the day after the bleed, my haemoglobin levels had dropped from 109 pre surgery to 81. I was put on iron tablets. The next day’s dropped again a little. There was talk of a transfusion but as I don’t smoke, they said they would wait. I had a trans vaginal scan on the Saturday 11th June which showed an 8cm haematoma from an internal bleed had pooled just over my vagina where my cervix would have been had I still had one. I was told my body would re-absorb it over the coming weeks. The pain was excruciating, I cannot ever explain that pain and the pain of the scan. Worse was to come.
I was discharged on Monday 13th June and I was finally glad to be able to rest in my own bad. The week passed in a blur of pain, extensive brushing all over my abdomen, extreme gas, constipation so bad on day 6 post op that I had to manually help it along..sorry for the graphics. All the pain seemed to blend into a nightmare culminating with me being taken back to accident & emergency in the early hours of Monday 20th June with a fever of 38.2 degrees.
I was re-admitted to the ward, I had an infection in the haematoma. I was on 3 different IV antibiotics, iron tablets and pain relief though I may as well have been taking nothing. I cried day and night. My husband was on call at work so I barely saw him. I didn’t want anyone else. By Wednesday, my skin was turning yellow and despite drinking tons of water, my urine output declined dramatically. I was taken for a liver scan on Wednesday 22nd June. No one said what was happening or why. On Wednesday night at 8pm, the senior consultant came to my cubicle and said he needed to do an internal examination. I screamed at him to go away, the pain was too bad, was he a monster? He went away but said he would be back in the morning to drain the infected haematoma which was now septic and would start to poison me.
I cried all night. The night nurse reassured me and said I would be taken to theatre to have it drained and not to worry. I was nil by mouth from midnight but at 8am my tormentor was back with the matron and he did the unthinkable, he manually inserted his hand and some long scissors into my vagina and cut the stitches where my cervix used to be. I cannot describe the pain, the matron held me down, I was traumatised and I still am. It seemed barbaric and I just cried and cried. My husband had come in just before 8am and heard my screams, so did everyone else on the wards I suppose.
Anyway, it did work as the infected blood gushed out, then oozed and the awful pain started to subside. It left me with nightmares, clammy sweats and tears which still continue. I was discharged home on 26th June after 6 days in hospital with a further 10 days of oral antibiotics.
So here I am, going on 4 weeks since the surgery. I am still bleeding off and on, I still have some tenderness, the scar is healing, my vagina still feels bruised, my tummy is like a balloon, I have lost a stone in weight (the one positive!) and my antibiotics finish tomorrow.
Yesterday evening I couldn’t stop crying, I screamed at my poor husband who has been wonderful. I threw things at him until he left. He stayed at a friends last night. I can’t bear to see him, I don’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone. I cry every day. I think of that consultant and I shake and go cold. I can’t imagine being touched down there ever again. I’m not going to go to my post op appointment in 2 weeks. We are supposed to be flying to our holiday destination of Montenegro on 24th July. I can’t even imagine me getting to the airport never mind that. I feel useless and hopeless.
I wish with all my heart I had prepared myself for such a big surgery. I didn’t want to know as I thought internet horror stories would put me off but it’s better to be informed so you can have a balanced view. I was so jealous of the other women on my ward over the 12 days I was there, all but me had keyhole surgery. All were walking around and went home the next day or two days at the most.
I was unlucky, I know that. I had the surgery for my husbands sake really, For our sexual relationship. I would advise that you only undertake to have it done if it will benefit your life so much more than the life you’re living now and prepare yourself, read everything you can, ask others who have had it done and be very sure it is the only solution for you.
In My Own Words: Women’s Experience of Hysterectomy is full of many other real-life stories from women the world over.
Other people’s stories help women feel less isolated. They show that they aren’t going mad, missing the point or stupid; get your copy today and share the stories that help you feel less alone.