Med Device Expert LLC

(c) 2005-2014 Lana C. Keeton. All rights reserved.

SAY NO TO HYSTERCTOMY, PRELUDE TO SACRAL COLPOPEXY!

Deborah Smith all rights reserved ©2013

 

HYSTERECTOMY—In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth. He created man and woman. God saw that all He created was good. Man and woman did what men and women do and produced children. These children brought forth children of their own. And it was all good.

 

But after many child births the woman began having female problems. I don’t know how women dealt with prolapse issues back then but eventually, man, with his limited knowledge and wisdom, created what we refer to today as a hysterectomy; and this…was not good!

 

And here’s why.

 

When a woman has a hysterectomy, she is essentially castrated. All her female sexual organs are removed. All her reproductive organs are removed and this leaves a whole lot of space for ‘fall-out.’ I’m not referring to a nuclear explosion, you understand, but the case could be made, since things have been blown way out of proportion and can have devastating effects. I’m going to go into some pretty vivid details that will further explain the ‘devastating effects’ this “simple surgery”, hysterectomy, can have.

 

First of all, if you haven’t already taken the time to read Part 1 of my series, my Mother actually bled to death during a hysterectomy when I was 13.

 

Now, this was in 1972. So, granted, much has been learned since then but it still happens occasionally. That is the absolute worst-case scenario. But other things can and do occur and frequently. For example….vaginal vault prolapse; another devastating result of hysterectomy.

 

In December of 2001 I had a hysterectomy. I’d experienced extremely long menstrual cycles….with break-through bleeding between periods. These were painful and worsening each month. There was a lot of clotting and heavy bleeding. I worried that I could die. After all, they said my Mom had developed DIC and I didn’t know how or when. It was all a great mystery. Daddy didn’t really understand and there just wasn’t anyone else to ask. I was seeing a local ob-gyn and nothing had changed….until he mentioned the hysterectomy.

 

I left the doctor’s office and drove straight to my Dad’s. He was sitting at the kitchen table having coffee and some pie. I said, “Daddy, I need to talk to you.” He said, “So, talk.” “Well” I said, “I went to see Dr Price today and he says I need a hysterectomy.” Daddy was quiet for awhile. He finished his coffee. The pie sat there half-eaten. Finally, he said, “You know, Dr Price was one of your Mama’s doctors; him and Dr Stuart.” “Really?” I said. I guess I didn’t realize that. “So, I guess I’ll be looking for a new gynecologist” I said.

 

I called a few friends and got some referrals and made an appointment with a Dr. Mills in a neighboring town. I told him I was there because another doctor told me I needed a hysterectomy. I told him about the heavy, sustained periods, the break-through bleeding…my Mom’s death and my fears. He did an exam and told me he agreed with the other doctor. He mentioned some prolapse issues, which had never been part of the equation. I went back once again and we set a date for surgery. I asked him if, during pre-op, he could do some testing to determine the clotting factors of my blood and he agreed this was a good idea.

 

Well, the day of the surgery came and my 4 sisters and children were there. We were all scared….some things you just never get over, you know? Anyway, I came out of surgery fine. When I woke up…I was elated; first and foremost because I hadn’t bled to death on the table and secondly, that I wouldn’t have to worry about bleeding every single day of my life.

 

The staff at the hospital treated me like a queen. They massaged me and pampered me….I remember telling them if this is the way you get treated here, I’d have to do this more often. I could get used to this. The doctor started me on Premarin the day after surgery.

 

So, I get home and lie around doing nothing. I watched TV, ate, read and lived the life of leisure until I went back for my check-up.

 

When that day arrived, the doctor told me everything was fine and I could resume my normal everyday routine. He explained to my husband that he’d tightened everything up in there and that sex would be better than it ever was….”you’ll really appreciate it” he said with a wink.

 

Our lives resumed and for a little while all was good. Then, approximately a month after my check-up, my husband and I were over at some friends. I stood up to get some food and something inside me dropped. It was the most terrifying thing I’d experienced up to this point. I told my husband we had to leave.

 

As soon as we got home, I called Dr Mills. I told him what had happened; that something had fallen inside me. His words to me were, “That’s impossible!” I said “That’s what I thought, too!” He grudgingly agreed to meet us at the ER and when he examined me he said, “Well, everything’s fine…I don’t see any problem whatsoever. Everything seems normal.”

 

I was confused as you can imagine because I could actually feel something protruding from my vagina earlier that night. Then, it hit me. “I know what’s wrong! I’m lying down.” You would’ve expected the doctor to have figured that one out himself. But he didn’t.

 

Anyway, I stood up for the doctor to examine me standing. He really didn’t seem to want to but didn’t have a choice in the matter. When he did, he jumped like something had bit him. “Oh! OH!” he exclaimed. I said, “Now doctor I don’t know about everybody else, but this is not normal for me.” He told me to be in his office Monday morning.

 

Both my husband and I went in on Monday and after a brief exam, the doctor and his assistant took us into another room. He explained the term vaginal vault prolapse. He referred us to a surgeon in Jackson, MS, Dr Harris, who specializes in these situations.

 

Me? I’d never heard of something like this happening to a woman!!!  I had no idea it COULD happen much less that there were doctors who specialized in this area. Dr. Mills went on to say that there were other things he could’ve done to prevent this from happening but with my muscle tone and as healthy as I was, he never expected anything like this in my case and then he apologized.

 

So off we went to Jackson to meet with this surgeon who specialized in this area. We went for the appointment, I was put on the table and left for awhile. The surgeon came back in to begin his exam. Suddenly, he called out for his assistant….he went out and brought someone else in. They all ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ over the vault prolapse with, (“Oh, my God! Did you see it move?”) enterocele, which is just a fancy name for your small intestines falling out of place.

 

I don’t think I’ve ever been so humiliated. I felt like the proverbial bug under glass. Although there was some discussion with him about mesh after the exam, I couldn’t tell you what was said. I never intended to go back to his office again. We left with our brochure and little piece of mesh.

 

I called my sisters and friends from Baton Rouge, LA for some referrals for doctors. I went to see a gynecologist who was affiliated with Women’s Hospital. It turns out her husband was a uro-gynecologist who specialized in these matters. All she had to do was make an appointment.

 

I returned to see Dr. Barksdale at Women’s Hospital, just one level up from his wife. He said basically the same thing. He explained that he would do a sacral colpopexy using Mersilene mesh so I thought, “Well, that’s just how it’s done.” I was so relieved to find out that IF something like this could happen to a woman, at least there was a “cure” for it. It never occurred to me that a surgeon would use anything that wasn’t safe. After all, their motto is “First do no Harm”, right?

 

The sacral colopopexy surgery was scheduled for April and seemingly went well with only minimal issues. I think I ran a little temp the first couple of days. Then, I went home to recuperate with strict instructions not to EVER lift over 5 pounds. Now, how do you do that? Well, you lift nothing weighing more than a gallon of milk.

 

Things seemed to have gone well for the first year or so but then I began having pain in my lower left abdomen. It didn’t prevent me from doing my job or from doing whatever I wanted, initially. It would just present itself periodically and was more of a nuisance. However, it became more frequent and more severe as time went on. So, ladies, don’t ignore pain in your lower abdomen after a sacral colpopexy surgery as this may very well be your first symptom and sign that something is wrong.

 

Then, one day, I began having a discharge. Like a responsible adult, I made an appointment and the doctor put me on a vaginal antibiotic. This did NOT help. I went back to him. He then cultured it and determined I had ‘gardnerella’ a bacterial vaginosis. I was prescribed more antibiotics. At this time he inquired where my husband worked and implied that I might be getting this from him. (‘wink, wink’) I asked if this was a venereal disease? He backtracked somewhat by telling me ‘not necessarily’. I stayed angry at my husband for a month.

 

When that round of antibiotics didn’t do the job, I went back to Dr Barksdale’s wife. After a urinalysis, an exam, bloodwork and a vaginal ultrasound, they, too, put me on antibiotics.

 

What I didn’t know, until I received my medical records from them, was that they had seen the mesh erosion. They knew exactly where the infection was coming from but they never uttered a word about it to me.

 

So, as you can imagine, I was pretty frustrated. Then, the strangest thing happened…I began bleeding vaginally. Now, everyone in their right mind knows that you don’t bleed after a total hysterectomy.

 

My husband and I went back to Dr. Mills scared to death that I had some terrible cancer. The doctor did a thorough exam this time and discovered (music, please!) “mesh erosion”. This did not compute. I was astounded and confused. I recall asking if his prior assessment was wrong.  This is no infection that I could’ve gotten from someone else? I believe he was just a tad embarrassed for having implied that my husband was fooling around.

 

Dr. Mills wanted to send me back to the specialist he’d recommended before. You know the one who had made me feel like some kind of medical anomaly? I refused and explained what had happened. He then arranged a meeting with a Dr. Meeks who suggested a conservative approach; that we just snip it off. He’d seen a few of these cases and that was his best recommendation. I only saw him the one time.

 

I eventually heard about Dr. Secrest, who took my case very seriously. He was thorough and highly concerned and recommended that something be done quickly. He couldn’t believe that my pelvic region had not become toxic.

 

I wish I’d selected him as my surgeon but by then, I’d discovered Dr. Miklos and was told I could have the mesh removed laparoscopically .  “I would be on my feet in a day or so and resume my life within three weeks” Dr. Miklos said. By this time, I’d begun raising my then, three year old grandson so this seemed like the best way to go. What a joke! The surgery performed by Dr. Miklos turned into a life threatening ordeal and not funny at all…but that’s a story for another day.

 

Like I’ve said before, prior to my surgical ordeal, I’d always viewed a hysterectomy as a normal part of a woman’s life; menstruation, children, hysterectomy. Trust me, it’s nowhere near normal. A hysterectomy changes your life forever even if you don’t experience profound complications such as death or vaginal vault prolapse.

 

Your body experiences physiological changes that you can’t imagine. Sex is no longer important. Your skin, hair and nails change. Your hormones are impacted, resulting in conditions from menopause to cancer.

 

Please do your homework. There are websites available that are a tremendous help. So, if and when a physician mentions hysterectomy check out The Hers Foundation. Nora Coffee has been a women’s advocate for many years and her life’s mission is one of educating women about the life changing perils of hysterectomy.  The foundation is ready and willing to help you navigate your symptoms and find alternate solutions.

 

I hate to mention this because it’s so embarrassing but I have to. After all these surgeries; the hysterectomy, the sacral colpopexy, the mesh erosion, the mesh removal catastrophe; after all the pain and misery endured from these surgical procedures…. I need to clear the air about something which, to me, is tragic. Sometime during this ordeal I began gathering all my medical records…and as I was reading over Dr Price’s notes….I discovered something. He never recommended a hysterectomy after all. What he recommended was a hysteroscopy. I guess I blanked out when I heard hyster….I don’t know.

 

Another troubling thing worth mentioning is that Dr. Mills cited the reasons for the hysterectomy as prolapse issues. If there were any problems in that area, they were minimal and no other doctor had mentioned it. Furthermore, it was never an issue for me. I know I’d never complained about it. My complaint was long and painful menstrual cycles with break-through bleeding and this wasn’t even mentioned in his records.

 

However, this became the ready-made excuse doctors used when any surgical procedure did not work out as planned. My thoughts are, IF indeed, I had weak tissue and this was an issue that could cause unwanted surgical results, it should’ve been discussed with me BEFOREHAND. At least then, I would’ve had the opportunity to enlighten them and they would’ve known better that to attempt to sell me that particular line of BS. Sorry, I digress. Allow me to get back to the topic at hand.

 

Before I start ranting, I will close with this advice.

 

(#1) Do NOT hesitate to get your medical records.

 

(#2) Read them. You may be surprised to discover what’s being circulated in certain circles regarding your health. This is so important. The next doctor or surgeon will decide your treatment based on what is in your medical record…not by what you are telling them. After all, what do you know? You’re just a patient with limited experience and education in these matters.

 

(#3) if the record is NOT correct….get it straightened out ASAP.

 

(#4) If a doctor mentions hysterectomy, don’t just assume this is the correct course of action. Contact an educational resource like the one mentioned above.

 

I’m sorry but the days of “Doctor Knows Best’ are over. Their motto, ‘First Do No Harm’ is a fallacy.

Some surgeons have been misguided by big pharma, some simply cannot accept that the ‘Gold Standard’ they’ve adopted and continue to perform, is actually rotten to the core. They are in denial.

 

Still, there are others who knowingly lie to your face regarding these mesh products because, although they DO know what the problem is, they simply

(A)DO NOT KNOW how to fix the problem

(B) are interested in their profit margin or

(C) are getting “kickbacks” (monetary gain of some kind) or other benefits from big pharma. 

 

As in my case, the surgery can create life-altering situations, if not, death. As in my case, the surgeons were interested in profit. As in my case, at least one surgeon worked on behalf of a pharmaceutical company and had benefitted greatly.

 

YOU are your own best advocate.

YOU are chief record keeper.

YOU determine the course of your life.

YOU know YOUR body better than anyone.

DO NOT let your health be ruined by physicians who don’t know YOU, don’t fully understand YOUR medical condition and don’t necessarily have YOUR best interest at heart. YOU…. do your homework.