My Hysterectomy Story
I hadn't planned on spending the day like that, but on the morning of my 45th birthday I woke up in hospital the day after a hysterectomy operation.
The reason for the op was heavy periods induced by fibroids (fibrous tissues on the wall of the womb). Although Mr Faraj stated in his article on talkhealth that it was unusual, I believe it was my age that made it necessary. I found myself in a "Catch 22" situtation. The fibroids were not causing too many problems but my gynaecologist told me they would prohibit the use of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) should I ever need it, as hormones can cause them to grow.
The decision to go ahead was mine alone. I was not forced into it and probably made a quicker recovery both emotionally and physically as it was my personal freedom of choice.
The day before the operation I had the usual blood tests, etc. I was glad I knew beforeheand that the area would be shaved. It enabled me to do the job with depilatory cream and left the nurse with very little to tidy up. I had only cereal and coffee seven hours before I was due in theatre at 2pm. A couple of pills were given two hours in advance which made me feel pleasantly sleepy and relaxed.
These days anaesthetics work in seconds and I knew nothing more until I woke up in the recovery room having my blood pressure checked every few minutes. This is to ensure your condition is stable before you are transferred back to the ward. I remember being extraordinarily talkative, then nothing more until I came to in my bed. The time was just after 3pm.
I had been warned about the drip of dextrose/saline solution that would be in position. There are two reasons for this. It supplies fluid to the body which would otherwise become dehydrated; and it provides a safety line into a vein should complications arise such as if drugs are required or in the unlikely event of bleeding.
Until I was able to pass water and keep down food and drink, the drip had to stay in place. I think the first 24 hours were the most uncomfortable. But, like childbirth, one forgets this afterwards. Pain killers were injected into my rump at regular intervals but they made me feel even more nauseous. I couldn't turn over because of the drip. Visits to the bathroom became a marathon expedition - me, the nurse and the drip. However, as soon as it was removed the following evening, I began to feel better by leaps and bounds.
When my husband visited on the second morning I was sitting in my chair, painting my nails, having already bathed myself and made up - a great morale booster.
The pain and inevitable wind persisted for a couple more days. During this time the nursing staff plied me with a "codis cocktail" - a local remedy, special to the hospital I was in - which helped relieve both symptoms. By the third day I took great pleasure in saying the cocktail was no longer needed - though a vodka martini would have gone down nicely! Antibiotics continued until I went home.
Every morning a physiotherapist arrived to oversee my breathing, circulation and muscle exercises. These reduce the effects of the anaesthetic, improve blood circulation, strengthen the abdominal region and ease backache and the discomforts of flatulence. I was also given an information booklet with exercises to continue with over the next few weeks.
By the fourth day I was tripping around visiting other patients for chats. And by the fifth I was champing at the bit to go home. But my gynaecologist, who had checked on my condition every day, would not let me go because I was running a persistent high temperature each night. This was the only time I felt tearful. Although the nurses were very attentive, there is still nowhere like home.
On day eight I was allowed to leave. However, I was unprepared for the unaccustomed fatigue and frustration of not being able to do things. I was advised to lift no more than 2lb (a bag of sugar) for the first three weeks (then gradually build up as I became stronger), to get plenty of sleep and to take an afternoon nap. A daily walk was the highlight of my days - 10 minutes the first two weeks, 20 minutes the third and a leg-stretching 45 minutes a day until my check-up after eight weeks.
The type of operation I had was called a vaginal hysterectomy, as opposed to an abdominal one. There are no external stitches as the womb is removed by what is commonly referred to as the "suction" method. However, you must remember that you still have internal sutures; it is the same operation and you mustn't take liberties. This so-called "keyhole" technique is an intricate operation that was not performed regularly at the time of my hysterectomy. Evidently it became more popular as the result of patient demands. There are no scars, less pain than an abdominal one, and there is a shorter convalescence period as you heal quicker.
I can vouch for that. Twelve weeks after my operation I was able to resume normal life. And I had never felt better, both mentally and physically. It was a relief not to have to suffer monthly periods any more. Another plus was that, as I had always had normal cervical smears in the past, further ones would not be necessary.
The surgeon will normally leave in the ovaries if they are healthy which meant I could still get PMT (pre-menstrual tension) though this diminished with time as the ovaries shrink. I was told I would feel the side effects of the menopause in the usual way which is where HRT came in. In fact, I sailed through the menopause and only took HRT for three months.
The origins of the word hysterectomy are in Greek. Hustera is womb and ektome is cutting out. Evidently the ancient Greeks believed that a woman's seat of emotions was situated in the womb. Hence the word hysteria. Trust the Greeks to have a word for it.
1. 21 July, 1989 in the Lynn News.
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