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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In praise of the HSE ~ Hysterectomy in University Hospital Galway, 2017

“My old ways die like leaves in the fall, leaving me naked. Then I open to healing” Maureen Brady

For quite a while I had been struggling with some female problems. My GP referred me to a gynaecologist. An ultrasound was performed and that showed up some fibroids which I was aware of from previous check ups. The gynaecologist Dr De Tavernier wanted to do a hysteroscopy. I had been for regular smear tests and a colposcopy but the idea of a hysteroscopy scared me. As someone that’s been there for the birth of one of my nieces but has never had a baby. Granted writing these blogs has felt like giving birth at times !

I also had some trust issues with doctors because of a severe trauma that happened in 2008, in a different field. So I kept putting off the test, saying that I needed to work on my diet, which I never seemed to be able to change e.g. reduce gluten, sugar & dairy. Krill oil seemed to help. One day a Sudanese doctor gave me a scare story so I went ahead with the test. I watched a simulator on youtube before hand to try to put my mind at ease.

Not long after the hysteroscopy the gynaecologist rang my GP to tell her that I needed a hysterectomy. I was helping out with a friend’s 3 yr old child that day as he had a bad case of tonsillitis. He woke up around the time of the call from my GP and was crying inconsolably while the doctor was telling me that my womb had to be removed. There was a certain irony to it all.

I did manage to settle the sick child after that by cradling him in my arms, while the reality sunk in. This was the final curtain coming down on any possibility of being a mother. I have accepted this but notice I’ve become more aware of babies and pregnant women. They seemed to be everywhere after that ! When it comes to my maternal instinct I have nieces, nephews, little cousins and friend’s children to connect and help out with.

The next step was to meet with the surgeon. When I was told that it would probably be gynaecologist / obstetrician Dr Astbury, I recognised the name as we had already met in the Cervical screening clinic. I was sent for an MRI scan. Towards the end of July I met with Dr Astbury 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 “less invasive” 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, due to very low mood (which I suffer from since taking anti-depressants for anxiety almost a decade ago! A condition called tardive dysphoria). 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’m not sure how well I rested as I started writing blogs which can be draining, but it’s something that was on my bucket list. The plan had been to write a book.

I continued to do daily Yoga to build up my strength. I improved my eating habits and cut back on sugar. I managed to loose half a stone in weight via the changes I made. I ate more fruit and vegetables and invested in various supplements and herbs. As I had been losing a lot of blood and that was taking its toll on my body, 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 listen to functional medicine doctors on the internet, some of whom did extra nutritional training to help overcome their own health issues via holistic medicine and their influence helped build me up for surgery. Doctors Kelly Brogan [2], Rangan Chatterjee [3], Mark Hyman [4] and others. Over the years my friends Kris and Karen have been a wealth of knowledge when it comes to holistic health [5].

I didn’t manage to give up alcohol and would recommend giving it up 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 did some final cleaning and preparation of my house (as I knew housework was going to be difficult for a few weeks), packed my belongings and headed to Galway on the train. I walked along the river Corrib that wet afternoon and took a taxi for the last part of the journey. I would normally call to the Cathedral to light a candle but didn’t get a chance that day. I got upset when I arrived, once the patient wristband was put on but managed to settle myself. I met with the doctor and told her I didn’t want to be there. She said that was understandable. 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.

Corrib_walk

I stayed in the hospital the night before and the doctor / surgeon came around with some of her team about 8 am. I got into my gown and had DVT stockings on. A nurse had measured me the night before and provided me with these special stockings. I was wheeled across in my bed to the main hospital for surgery. D-day had arrived. I don’t remember been particularly nervous. I spoke with the anesthetist and had the choice of an epidural or a more localised anesthetic as part of the whole procedure. I choose the latter option. 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 when I saw a familiar face.

She explained a few things to me including that surgery had taken an extra hour as my womb was attached to my intestine due to some old endometriosis that I was unaware of. So the surgery had taken 2.5 hours. 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 was like a Christmas tree with so many connections and monitors attached. My blood pressure was been constantly checked by an automated device and my other vital signs were also been monitored.

The next morning a nurse helped me out of bed to sit out on a chair. I had tubes 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. In St. Monica’s ward I got amazing care from nurses Adrienne, Marie, Patricia and others.

A lot of emotions came up on the 2nd night and I found it more difficult that the first. Plus I have hyperacusis (severe sensitivity to sound) so the noise from the drip was like torture, even with earplugs in ! Hospitals can also be noisy environments.

For 2.5 days I was on a drip while my intestine started to wake up and work again. I didn’t realise that the bowel would be so affected by the surgery and was in a certain amount of pain from trapped wind. I regretted not bringing some natural peppermint with me. In hindsight, I also should have been a bit more careful with my diet in the days leading up to the surgery.

On the 3rd day it was good to be sitting out on a chair at 7 am. I was getting chesty and the advice was to take regular deep breaths. Because I’m not a smoker I was sometimes relaxed about that advice. The reality was I needed to work with deep breathing. A lady called Teresa that I was friendly with died in the main hospital that day. That upset me as I am very close to some of her extended family. She had also inspired me to keep moving with my procedure. I became very much aware of the preciousness of life.

On the Monday I saw the physiotherapist who gave me very good advice e.g. how to move correctly, lifting advice, pelvic floor exercises etc. On youtube I listened to cell healing [6], chakra healing [7], Wayne Dyer [8] & Louise Hay [9]. I also brought 3 of her books to the hospital. Louise Hay died on August 30th, age 90, on the 2nd anniversary of Wayne Dyer’s death. I also had a photo of evidence based healer Bruno Groening in the room [10]. A mindfulness colouring book gave me something to do. And the book “The Healing Code” by Loyd and Johnson (an MD) was a great help [11]. I recorded the healing prayer / mantra on my phone and listened to it regularly. I gave this book to another patient in the room beside me.

I was groggy from painkillers and the various drugs and had two balls of painkillers connected by fine tubes to my tender abdominal area. It was difficult to think straight or to remember things. Coughing or laughing caused some pain and I had to hold the area where I had the incision with something padded. 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.

On the day I was discharged a friend Mal organised transport for me and we left Galway at 4.15 pm. There was a lot of traffic and I didn’t get to my destination until 5.45 pm. I felt tired after the journey and a bit tender.

Respite

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 scar that was healing well without any infection reminded me of what I had been through. In a world that is now full of antibiotic resistance luckily I didn’t get an infection [12, 13]. I was very careful with the wound and minded it well. As did the nursing staff.

In respite, it was great to have an adjustable bed, railings, a lift and an adapted shower. The first night was an adjustment as I missed St. Monica’s hospital ward. 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 was also wearing DVT tights in case of a blood clot and continued to wear them for a few weeks.

Pain control was an issue. 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 took a taxi 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 antioxidant 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.

Green_smoothie

I was slowly tapering off the drugs and by September 4th I was taking 1 Difene, 2 Panadol and 0.25 Xanax (temporarily to help me with relaxation and sleep). By September 7th my friend Trevor, who drives a taxi, took me home. I was now in a world full of highly sprung doors and where I needed to fend for myself most of the time. My very kind neighbour Avril cooked me Lasagne, left fuel for the fire on my doorstep and moved a few heavy items for me.

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, to visit an 89 year old woman who had a heart valve replaced in University Hospital Galway.

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.

When I discussed wanting local anesthetics for the hysteroscopic procedure in Ireland (like they do in the US) and my concerns about morcellation used by other doctors to perform hysterectomies (thanks to the brave work of Dr Noorchashm and his wife Dr Amy Reed) she listened but didn’t make me feel inferior. I don’t work in the medical field but do a lot of reading and research.

7 weeks on I still wasn’t really able for lifting a small backpack of groceries. My body let me know. 8 weeks on I wasn’t truly ready for intimate relationships with my manfriend. I suggest waiting at least 3 months for that, 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 [14]. It’s been a difficult few weeks. I probably needed some psychological support and did discuss that with the Community nurse but struggled on due to a traumatic experience with the mental health services in the past. Some therapy /counseling would have been helpful. I could always have tried to link up with therapist Ivor Browne who is now 88. But decided to give him some peace. He did send me a very supportive message while I was in hospital saying “Sorry to hear what’s been happening to you. I suppose every experience teaches us something but it’s no joke when you’re going through it. I just hope you are recovering well”. A man with a lot of patience and kindness.

Some of the Manic Depressive / Bipolar symptoms (triggered by anti-depressants in 2008) returned for a while but I was more aware of them now and able to stand up to them, while letting them go. Like the cover of a Dr Suess book [15]. Some morphine in the hospital also triggered my overactive brain and caused a bit of a high but I managed to balance that out by asking the doctor for some xanax very short term (seeing as benzos are addictive).

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 daily work on my physical and emotional health. As someone that trained in basic Anatomy, Physiology and Massage therapy and that worked in this field in the past, I do think that functional medicine and holistic healing needs to play a bigger part in our health care. I’m not sure if people understand the difference between modern medicine and functional medicine. Dr. Mark Hyman explains it well [16].

We live in a world awash with drugs, where antibiotic resistance is a major problem and where the flu vaccine may not be effective this winter, putting a major strain on the health service. I needed to work on my own immune system and self-discipline isn’t one of my strong points. I am far from perfect at times.

When in respite, my Irish teacher (Sr. Patricia from secondary school) bought me a jar of high quality New Zealand Manuka honey which was very kind and thoughtful of her.

As someone that’s been to a few public lectures in RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons) I’ve learned about the usefulness of more traditional methods when it comes to healing wounds and fighting infection [17]. I also went to a good lecture by Dr Anthony Cummins on ‘Evidence based medicine’ [18].

To conclude, overall I was very pleased with and grateful for the care I received from our health service. Now I can help others in similar situations. I have empathy and understanding about this ordeal. Some people understood the severity of the procedure. Others, particularly women, didn’t seem to fully comprehend the healing involved and the support required. Both physically and emotionally. Women who have had C-sections seemed to have some understanding e.g. my sister-in-law or the many women that have had a hysterectomy.

To those that have supported me, including cousin Linda, friend Erica, my aunts and others, 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.

Go raibh maith agat.

GoRaibhMaithAgat

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] Kelly Brogan ~ http://kellybroganmd.com/

[3] Rangan Chatterjee ~ https://www.drchatterjee.com/

[4] Mark Hyman ~ http://drhyman.com/

[5] Karuna Flame Holistic health centre ~ http://www.karunaflame.com/karunaflame/

[6] Spoken Guided Meditation For Pain & Sickness, Relieve Pain Naturally ~
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jD3VxSGM-k

[7] Chakra Cleansing & Activating Guided Meditation ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1xwtA6C2DQ

[8] Wayne Dyer ~ https://www.drwaynedyer.com/
[9] Louise Hay – Morning Meditation to Heal Your Body ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YcCHonbyWU

[10] Bruno Gröning ~ https://www.bruno-groening.org/en

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

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

[13] 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

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

[15] …Will You Please Go Now! Dr Suess book ~
https://www.amazon.com/Marvin-Mooney-Please-Beginning-Beginners/dp/0394824903

[16] How Is Functional Medicine Different than Conventional Medicine?

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

[17] RCSI MiniMed Open Lecture Series 2013/2014 – ‘Wound Management …”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBYg2gzwMiI

[18] RCSI MiniMed Open Lecture Series 2013/2014 – ‘Evidence-Based Medicine’
Dr. Anthony Cummins ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNn1StHwxmw