Shortened version of Hysterectomy story

For quite a while I had been struggling with some female problems. My GP referred me to a gynaecologist who sent me for an ultrasound and hysteroscopy (procedure for looking at lining of uterus). Not long after the hysteroscopy the gynaecologist rang my GP to tell her that I needed a hysterectomy. I was sent for an MRI scan.

The next step was to meet with the surgeon, Dr. Astbury. We had already met in the cervical screening clinic. Towards the end of July I met with her and a clinical nurse specialist Joanne. The doctor listened without judging me which was important.

After a discussion with them and asking questions about a laparoscopic procedure, I decided to go ahead with an abdominal hysterectomy. In hindsight that was a good decision. I asked to keep my ovaries, if possible. My mood can get quite low at times and I didn’t want to be plunged straight into the Menopause. The surgery was scheduled for August 25th.

I discovered a good website dedicated to women going through hysterectomies called HysterSisters [1]. Leading up to the surgery I got a call from the nurse Joanne to ask how I was. She advised me to rest and eat healthily.

I continued to do daily Yoga to build up my strength. I improved my eating habits and cut back on sugar and lost about 7 lbs. I ate more fruit and vegetables (organic if possible) and invested in various supplements and herbs. I took Hemaplex which included iron, antioxidants and amino acids.

That paid off in the end as I didn’t need a blood transfusion. Luckily I didn’t loose too much blood from surgery. I took a good quality chlorella, magnesium, organic flaxseed oil, krill oil, garlic, cumin and turmeric. I would recommend giving up alcohol or reducing it to a minimum so that the liver can be at its peak for processing all the drugs that are given during and after surgery.

The day before the surgery I took the train to Galway and met with Dr Astbury. I signed an informed consent form and had been made aware of some of the risks. She said I would be given an antibiotic as a precaution, in case of infection. I was on that for just the first day.

I stayed in the hospital the night before and the doctor came around with some of her team about 8 am. I got into my gown and DVT stockings. I was wheeled across in my bed to the main hospital for surgery. I spoke briefly with the anesthetist. They froze my hand, inserted a cannula into a vein and that was all I remembered. I woke up in a certain amount of pain and with a nurse sticking various attachments to my body which agitated me. Dr Astbury came around and I seemed to settle and calm down.

The surgery had taken an extra hour as my womb was attached to my intestine due to some old endometriosis that I was unaware of. I was given some oxygen while they checked my pain levels on a scale of 1 to 10 and reduced my level of discomfort. I was brought to the PACU unit (Post Anesthetic Care Unit). The first night there was a sense of relief that this major surgery was over. I had many connections and monitors attached. My blood pressure and other vital signs were been constantly checked by an automated devices.

The next morning a nurse helped me out of bed to sit out on a chair. I had tubes and wires everywhere. I listened to some online meditations and healing on youtube. By afternoon I was wheeled in a bed from the PACU unit back to my room by a porter and kind nurse.

I got amazing care in St. Monica’s ward. For 2.5 days I was on a drip while my intestine started to work again. I didn’t realise that the bowel would be so affected by the surgery and was in a certain amount of pain. On the 3rd day it was good to be sitting out on a chair at 7 am. To avoid getting a chest infection regular deep breaths are necessary.

On the Monday I saw the physiotherapist who gave me very good advice e.g. pelvic floor exercises etc. On youtube I listened to cell healing, chakra healing, Wayne Dyer & Louise Hay. A mindfulness colouring book gave me something to do. And the book “The Healing Code” was a great help [2].

I was groggy from painkillers and the various drugs and had two balls of painkillers connected by fine tubes to my tender abdominal area, where there was a 9 inch incision along the bikini line. It was difficult to think straight or to remember things. Coughing or laughing caused some pain. Other basic biological functions took some time to return to some kind of normality.

I rested in my bed, wombless, listening to the occasional screams of babies coming into the world, as there was an emergency theatre down the corridor. I cried on the way into hospital and didn’t want to be there for major surgery. I also shed a tear on the way out. It was like leaving the womb without a womb. A cocoon. I felt I would never get such great care again. I had been minded like a baby.

Respite

After hospital I spent a week in respite while my body healed from major abdominal surgery that had cut through my core muscles and left me without my usual strength and independence. The large, carefully minded scar was healing well without any infection. In a world that is now full of antibiotic resistance luckily I didn’t get an infection [3, 4].

In respite, it was great to have an adjustable bed, railings, a lift and an adapted shower. On my first day in respite my GP came to examine me. I had some strange sensations in my legs from all the drugs and felt like I was walking on a trampoline. I continued to wear the DVT tights for a few weeks.

The nurses had me on a schedule taking various medications but eventually I needed to keep a record myself and develop a routine for taking pain medication & the anti-inflammatory drug Difene. I got off the drugs as soon as I could, while been sure to have my pain under control. Everyone is different, so this is not medical advice.

I went to see a good nutritionist called Linda in the town I live in. She gave me some advice e.g. I took Kefir to help build back the good bacteria in my gut and drank a green anti-oxidant smoothie with wheatgrass. When it came to inflammation I supplemented turmeric into my food, after I came off the Difene. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory. Advice from a doctor or nutritionist may be needed when it comes to any contraindications.

I slowly tapered off the drugs. About 2 weeks after surgery I went home and out to a world full of highly sprung doors, where I needed to fend for myself most of the time. My next door neighbour was very kind when I arrived home. I was able to slowly and carefully do a certain amount of housework e.g. dishes and laundry. 3 weeks after surgery I was able for a 20 minute walk, with some rest along the way.

4 weeks on I had electrical zaps in my tummy after overdoing things. 6 weeks after surgery I went back to Dr. Astbury for a check up and thanked her for a job well done. I am very grateful for the work she did. While some people can be judgemental when I tell them various parts of my journey, she instead praised me for going for the test and the necessary surgery.

7 weeks on I still wasn’t really able for lifting a small backpack of groceries. My body let me know. I suggest waiting at least 3 months for any intimate relationships, which is the average recovery time for the internal healing.

As someone that’s been through a difficult decade, I had a new appreciation of people, doctors & nurses, the HSE and life in general [5]. Some therapy /counseling would have been helpful and/or a support group. The whole journey was a test of my own resilience that involved a lot of maturing and personal growth. A support group would have been helpful.

I need to stay focused on nutrition and take personal responsibility for my physical and emotional health on a daily basis, which at times can be a struggle. Functional medicine needs to play a bigger role in our health care system. Dr. Mark Hyman explains it well [6].

To conclude, overall I was very pleased with and grateful for the care I received from our health service. I have empathy and understanding about this ordeal. Some people understood the severity of the procedure and the impact it has, both physically and emotionally. Others were not very understanding.

To those that have supported me I am forever grateful. And finally, I am grateful for the skilled hands of the surgeon Dr. Katharine Astbury, her team, the nurses in St. Monica’s ward in University Hospital Galway, staff in Portiuncula hospital, those that looked after me in respite and my GPs.

 

Some links that may be useful

[1] www.hystersisters.com ( A website I discovered that was of great help e.g. On what to expect as the weeks progressed)

[2] The Healing Code & book ~ http://thehealingcodes.com/

[3] Antimicrobial resistance ~ http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs194/en/

[4] Antibiotic resistance could spell end of modern medicine, says chief medic ~
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/oct/13/antibiotic-resistance-could-spell-end-of-modern-medicine-says-chief-medic

[5] HSE information on Hysterectomy ~ http://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/H/Hysterectomy/

[6] How Is Functional Medicine Different from Conventional Medicine?

https://vimeo.com/37277787 (Dr. Mark Hyman)

Other relevant links

* Louise Hay You Can Heal Your Life ~

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTtmHvM1opo

* Flipping the Script on Menopause: Dr. Christiane Northrup & Dr. Kelly Brogan

http://kellybroganmd.com/flipping-the-script-on-menopause-dr-christiane-northrup/

* Marilyn Glenville on Hysterectomy ~

https://www.marilynglenville.com/womens-health-issues/hysterectomy/

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