Tommie’s Hysterectomy Story
Type of Hysterectomy: Davinci
Age at surgery: 43
Location: Northwest USA
I have a long history of heavy bleeding and painful periods. For years I had random doctors here and there telling me to take ibuprophen, drink water and buy a heating pad. In 2012 my periods were affecting almost every aspect of my life. I went to my trusted former OBGYN (my kids are 14 and 15 now), Dr. Laurent Nicolov, desperate for some advice. Dr. Laurent Nicolov offered to try birth control (which I did not want to take) or an ablation with an 80% chance it would work. I opted for the ablation with the hopes it would relieve some of the pain and bleeding. The ablation procedure was easy and appeared to work for the first couple months. Month one, no period, month two, light period. After that, my periods went back to the usual heaving bleeding with nasty clots and very painful. In fact, they appeared to get worse. I suffered through for another couple years when I decided that life was too short to live like this. I was having a period more than half the month, every month. I would bleed through all barriers and had to carry a change of clothes when attending school events for the kids. I went back to Dr. Nicolov in November of 2014 in tears. Dr. Nicolov walked in the room and said, “are you ready to be done with this uterus?” Dr. Nicolov explained that I have a condition called Adenomyosis, which occurs when endometrial tissue, which normally lines the uterus, exists within and grows into the muscular wall of the uterus. He said this condition can make the ablation procedure less affective and would explain some of my symptoms. This condition was discovered during the ablation surgery. Being the wonderful doctor he is, Dr. Nicolov made me feel that somehow he completely understood what I was going through. Dr. Nicolov’s specialty is delivering babies and abdominal hysterectomies. He explained that he felt I was a good candidate for the Robot Assisted Hysterectomy (Davinci) and his trusted colleague Dr. Cliff Rogers would be the best referral he could give. I have the utmost trust in Dr. Nicolov and asked for the referral. He offered to call Dr. Rogers office himself and see if we could expedite the surgery. He came back to the room and said I was on the schedule for less than a month away, December 18, 2014. I needed to have some pre-surgery work done, including a transvaginal ultrasound and blood work. I also would need a pre-surgery appointment with Dr. Rogers.
Dr. Nicolov got me a SUNDAY appointment at the Everett Clinic for the transvaginal ultrasound, which went without incident. I met with Dr. Rogers for the first time on December 9th. Dr. Rogers was warm and wonderful. He explained in as much detail as I wanted, the procedure. It was all science fiction and craziness to me. He said they tip the surgery table head down so your bowels slide out of the way. (who knew!). He also talked about how you are warm and wrapped comfortably. He said that I would have an IV in both hands so that in the event one didn’t work well, they had a backup without having to wrap or work around the robot. He made sure I understood that it’s robot ASSISTED surgery. He controls the robot, period. Some of the biggest benefit to Davinci is small incisions, less recovering and steady robot hands. He explained that the ultrasound showed my uterus to be double the size it should be as well as a very large fibroid tumor. He said that doing the Davinci procedure might require he take the fibroid out in pieces due to its size. He also explained he would do what was best for me while in surgery, and most confirm of the “surgical plan” came once they got inside and could see first-hand what they were dealing with. I agreed to go forward with the Davinci performed by Dr. Rogers knowing there could be issues based on my ultrasound results. I would essentially wake up and hear what they ended up having to do. [scary]. Dr. Rogers made me feel confident that he would handle whatever came and that I would be fine! I completed the pre-surgery blood work the following week and completed the required “bowel prep” the night before. Don’t let “bowel prep” scare you. It’s basically drinking a Gatorade full of miralax, and fasting. Not a big deal.
The morning of December 18, 2014 my husband and I headed to the hospital. From the very first moment I was treated with so much care. I was concerned because I had to undress and get in the surgery gown (cute purple paper thing) and I was (of course) on a period. The young man (yep, man) discretely got me a pad and hospital underpants with a quick kind word of not to worry at all. I went from there to the prep room where I met a wonderful lady who shared experiences of her travels to Ireland while she put IV’s in both arms. She brought my husband and great friend Nancy in to visit with me while she finished the rest of her work. I had to get a shot in the thigh to avoid blood clots, and she told me about these great leg warming, massaging things used during and right after surgery to keep blood moving through my legs. Shortly thereafter the anesthesiologist came in to check in with me. We chatted briefly about how I would be sleeping through the whole surgery and they would be inserting a tub down my throat that could cause very minor if any at all discomfort after the surgery. There were no surprises and I felt comfortable with the plan. Next, Dr. Rogers came in to do a similar “check in”. He again reassured me and wanted to answer any last minute questions I might have. He’d already made sure I was prepared, so I was ready. My dad and Brother were brought back and I was given something for anxiety. I don’t remember being wheeled to surgery. I guess I wasn’t anxious anymore. (-:
I woke up in a warm, honestly cozy hospital bed a little fuzzy but otherwise none the worse for the wear. I met several lovely nurses in those early hours, all of which made sure I wasn’t in any pain and had everything I could possible need or want at the time. I was given Tylenol on a drip and Vicodin. They alternated Tylenol and ibuprophen as needed for pain. The pain wasn’t bad at all. I slept a lot for the first 8 hours, not even remembering guests. Dr. Rogers stopped in to talk with my husband (while I was too groggy to remember) about how the surgery went. The nurses were absolutely awesome. The hospital staff helped me with everything. Getting up, walking, going to the restroom, etc. I was super catered to and felt so at peace with everything. I stayed the night, then focused on walking and getting ready to go home. Early the next day, Dr. Rogers came by again. He talked with me about the surgery and checked incisions and my legs. He sat and visited and made sure he answered my questions. I told him I was walking and would continue to move so that I could heal. He stayed for longer than I thought he would and I really appreciated every moment. Later I went for a walk and passed him in the hall. He gave me an encouraging hug and keep up the good work!
The results of the surgery were this: I was able to keep my ovaries. They took the tubes, uterus and cervix. My uterus was significantly larger than thought after the pre-op ultrasound and there was several, some large fibroid tumors. Dr. Rogers was able to remove everything without releasing potential cancer cells into my blood stream. Since they do the pathology testing AFTER the surgery, it’s good to keep tissue in-tact while it’s still connected to your blood stream. I had 5 incisions less than ½ inch each across my stomach. Those don’t hurt at all.
I took stool softeners for obvious reasons and had a prescription for pain meds that I only took for a couple days. I rested regularly and recovered quickly. I had to remind myself I was post-op and to go slow. I just felt so good.
6 weeks later I happily headed to my post-op appointment thanking Dr. Rogers for not only his expertise in completely the surgery, but for treating me with such constant tenderness and respect.
I have never been happier. Ok – Maybe a smidge happier right after each of my kids was born, but honestly I have zero regrets. I feel amazing. I have no more cramps, bleeding, bloating, pain, I feel like I’ve got a new lease on life. I have no concerns about packing extra clothes or supplies for ridiculous bleeding. I can actually take a vacation without trying to schedule around a terribly unpredictable period. I can even celebrate Valentine’s day, ON VALENTINES day with my husband. I won’t go into details but that might be the best part, we can be intimate without a schedule!
I feel like it’s Christmas every month I don’t have a period.
Consider Davinci Robot Assisted if you have that option. It’s important to understand the surgery plan, but most important is to trust your doctor to do the right thing once they start the surgery and can see inside. I know it’s scary, but the other side of my surgery makes me wish I would have not waited so long.