By Cynthia E.
ER, Emergency Surgery & Anger
Editor’s note: This part three of a four-part series. It is a brave and unflinchingly honest story involving a rare medical emergency during a clinic D&E, and we applaud the author for her courage in sharing it, and offer our condolences on the loss of her baby and her fertility.
The ambulance arrived and they asked if I could move to the gurney. I asked the nurse. Can I? They moved me to the gurney and put me in the ambulance. I could see judgment in the paramedic’s eye. One of those looks like, if you hadn’t been such a bad person, I wouldn’t have to be here trying to save your life.
They asked me “What is your name? Where do you live?” I was able to answer them, but because of the pain I had to take long pauses. I tried to focus on remaining calm. Soon I’d be at the hospital and I’d be OK.
At the ER, three ob-gyn doctors stood at the foot of my bed looking at charts and reviewing notes from the clinic. They examined my pelvis and vagina, pushing here and there and asking where it hurt. It hurt more on the left side.
They said they didn’t know what the extent of the damage was, that they needed to cut me open to look for the missing fetal tissue to remove it. They said if it was still in the uterus, they would go up vaginally like the clinic did. They asked for consent to receive blood and explained the possible outcomes depending on the extent of the damage. I signed their consent forms and listened to all the possible outcomes. But given that I was bleeding internally, I really didn’t have much of a choice. If they didn’t operate, I could bleed to death.
I really needed to pee, so they brought me a bedpan. They placed it under me but peeing lying down just was not going to happen. I hoisted myself up using the side rails just enough to pee. When the nurse took it away, she said there was a lot of blood. I’m sure there was. I could feel the blood gushing out when I moved.
My aunt called Steven for me and he told her he was on his way.
I tried to lay still and remain calm while I waited, but I was worried about Steven driving under stress. They brought me a phone so I could call him. I suggested that he try to find a flight and he said he’d look into it.
I said, “You are Sabrina’s only functioning parent right now. She needs you to be safe and get here in one piece”
After I got off the phone I thought about what was about to happen to me. Exploratory abdominal surgery on top of the blood loss from the botched abortion. These could be my last moments.
They wheeled me into pre-op, where I met a few more doctors that were going to assist in my surgery. The anesthetist came in and explained his process. He mentioned something about taking me to another room and re-asking me questions like my name and birthdate. This is where my memories run out.
Regaining consciousness was weird. I was lying in a hospital bed in a room divided by curtain, my neighbor watching TV. My aunt was sitting beside my bed. My throat was very sore and I felt terrible. I had two IVs in now, the original one from the clinic and a new one on my wrist. A nurse came in and showed me where the button was to release more pain meds. She said I could press it every eight minutes. I remembered from my c-section that I didn’t want to get behind on these meds. It sneaks up on you and kicks you in the ass. So I got out my phone and set the timer for 8 minutes. The drugs they had me on must have been very strong. I was mentally and physically numb and had a hard time staying awake.
I lifted up my gown and looked at my stomach. There was a blue line that started slightly below my bra line and extended down. I followed the line down to a hard tape-like substance. Evidentially instead of stiches or staples, they taped me back together. This area was very sore; even a light touch was painful. The taped section extended an inch or so above my bellybutton to my C-section scare. Great, now I have an upside-down T on my stomach.
When the world seems like it’s giving you all lemons, it good to try to find some positives. I looked at this blue line that they had drawn on my stomach and was thankful that they didn’t cut all the way up it.
Later I awoke with my parents sitting at the foot of my bed. My throat was still very sore and it hurt to talk. All I wanted was a throat lozenge. The thought kept swimming through my brain. What happened during the surgery? What did they find? How bad was the damage? Did I still have my uterus?
After my parents reassured me that Sabrina was doing well and playing with her cousins, I gathered my courage and asked, “How did my surgery go?” My mom said it went well, but what did that mean? I would have to wait for a doctor to tell me what actually had happened.
I found out later, after my parents had left. The night ob-gyn woke me. She said her colleagues thought I might have some questions about the operation and the hysterectomy.
“Hysterectomy? They did a hysterectomy?”
She explained that the damage to my uterus was too extensive to try to repair and that they’d had to remove it. She said I was lucky that I didn’t bleed more than I had, and that they’d had to give me two liters of blood.
I just couldn’t believe it. It was supposed to be a routine procedure with a one day recovery. How in the world did it go this badly? As if we weren’t already unlucky enough, having to make this heart wrenching decision. My heart sank. What about the baby we were planning on? What about the plan for our family? My head was swimming in reaction to this news. I couldn’t even think of anything else to ask her.
After she leftI texted my mom, dad, my good friend Annie, and Steven. OMG! I just talked to the night ob-gyn. They had to do a hysterectomy :'(
I sat there looking at the phone wondering who would respond. Within a minute, my phone was ringing. It was Steven. He said that he knew. They had called him while I was in surgery and asked him what to do, and said that if they tried to repair my uterus, that best case scenario would have been a two-year wait before we could try to have a baby. Even then it would still be risky. The pregnancy might rupture the uterus, risking both our lives. They also gave him other scenarios where the uterus simply does not heal properly and they would have to go back in and do a hysterectomy anyway.
He said it was a very difficult decision to make, but in the end he wanted them to save my life. He gave them the go ahead to perform the hysterectomy. That was really hard to hear.
Annie had texted me back while I was talking to Steven.
I texted her, “I’m so mad” and explained what had happened at the clinic, how it seemed like the doctor just kept going deeper and yanking harder and I’d how ended up here.
After we finished texting, I was alone with my thoughts. I was mad. I was mad at the doctor at the clinic for damaging my uterus. I was mad at the protesters for making the doctor feel like he couldn’t admit defeat. I was mad at the protesters for it was people like them that had caused me to have to resort to a clinic in the first place, instead of a hospital where it should have been done. I was regretting my decision to stay in Michigan to have the procedure done. I was regretting my decision to try to enjoy my vacation instead of thoroughly researching the clinic and what other alternatives I had for getting this procedure done somewhere where my uterus wouldn’t have ended up destroyed.
Quick links to all posts in Cynthia’s story:
Part I: Pregnancy, Diagnosis & Decision
Part II: Clinic, Protesters & Disaster
Part III: ER, Emergency Surgery & Anger
Part IV: Recovery, Grief & Decisions