Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What Happened to My Uterus

This post is for those who are curious about the details of my hysterectomy last year, since I didn't share much right after it happened. Be warned, however, that some might consider these details icky, so proceed at your own risk. You have been warned.

One year ago today around evening rush hour, I was sitting in our NICU room with Tracy, admiring our strong 4-pound baby boys. We just put them back in their open cribs, which they had progressed to only a couple days before. We loved that since the transition to open crib we could hold them whenever and for however long we wanted. Tracy had just finished reading a book to them, a nightly ritual during their NICU stay.

Then I felt it. Whoosh. A rush of blood. Two weeks after the boys were born, I was bleeding only slightly by that point, so I definitely knew something had to be wrong when I felt about an entire period's worth of blood all at once. I told Tracy and our NICU nurse what had happened. Immediately, which means that it still took 20 minutes to arrive, she sent someone to find a wheelchair to take me to the emergency room in the other wing of the hospital. A few minutes later, I felt another huge rush of blood. I was hemorrhaging. Finally the wheelchair came, and I said goodbye to my babies, comforted that they would be well cared for by the NICU nurses.

As we started walking, Tracy and I cracked jokes and laughed that yet another function or organ in my body was malfunctioning. I joked, "What will it be this time?" and "How convenient that we are already here in the hospital!" For those who know my "story," this reaction probably doesn't surprise you. (For those who don't, click here.) But the joking soon came to screeching halt.

The skywalk system between medical buildings felt exponentially longer than it should've as wave after wave of blood gushed out, each time slightly more painful. When we approached the check-in desk in the ER, I felt dizzy and tired. Tracy filled out the necessary paperwork while I tried unsuccessfully to stop my head from spinning. Then came the barrage of the same questions over and over again from several separate nurses and doctors, as you always experience when you go to the ER. They kept asking Tracy if I looked especially pale to him. No, that's just how she looks, he said. Thanks, babe.

I started to feel so cold; my hands and legs shivered, and my teeth chattering involuntarily. Now I understand why in the movies or TV shows, people say they are cold when they have been shot or stabbed or whatever and are bleeding to death. I've been there. (Bleeding to death, not getting shot or stabbed.) Eventually even breathing became difficult for me, so they gave me an oxygen tube. The bleeding slowed down, but the pain increased with each wave of blood. The doctors explained that they would try to stop the bleeding with a D&E, but if they couldn't they might need to perform a hysterectomy. Without question, Tracy and I told them to do what they needed to do.

Then came more questions, but not the same ones as before. "What is your name? What city do you live in? How old are you?" That's when I started worrying. Until then, I hadn't exactly enjoyed the experience, but I wasn't scared. I had only started bleeding about 30 minutes before and only recently felt significant pain. But no one asks you those kinds of questions unless they are concerned about your brain function from blood loss. I heard Tracy say to one of the nurses, "Now she looks really pale." Later he told me that I looked like a corpse, complete with blue lips and china-white skin.

At that point, I could barely keep my eyes open. As they rolled my bed away to go the OR, I held his hand and with all my energy whispered to Tracy that I loved him. For a second I honestly wondered if I would see him again. If I'd see my babies again. If I'd see any of my family or friends again. I wondered if it was already too late to stop it, if my time was drawing to a close.

I woke up--obviously. I felt that strong, deep, all-too-familiar ache in my abdomen and weak throughout my entire body. A large white bandage covered the doctors' work, but I already knew. They removed my uterus. I never got the actual number from the doctor, but before and during my surgery, I received anywhere between 6-10 units of blood.

Later, my doctor explained that the placentas had grown into the uterus lining, called placenta accreta. Most likely, my uterus had some scar tissue from my appendix or first ruptured ectopic pregnancy, which caused the placentas to grow into the lining. Although all the pieces of the placentas came out (after the doctor fished them out--ouch), two weeks later my uterus "thought" some of it was still there and bled to flush it out.

If we had been at home when it happened and if we had had to fight through Houston rush hour traffic to get to the emergency room, Tracy and I are sure I wouldn't have survived. But I did. Again. How about that?

I wonder what's next. My gall bladder? My spleen? A kidney? What other organs don't I need?

2 comments: