I never thought I’d be awake during my hysterectomy – Jill’s story

Hi I’m 53 years old and have three children, here’s my hysterectomy story. After giving birth to my second and third children in 1999 and 2005, I had problems with my pelvic floor and had received NHS physio sessions to improve it, which it did a bit. In my late forties I took up running after discovering the NHS Couch to 5K and loved it. 

Unfortunately, my prolapse got worse and I went to the doctors as most of the time I could now feel a bulge in my vagina. I had to stop running and even walking was quite difficult and uncomfortable. I was lucky enough not to have bladder leakage as a result but it was regularly difficult to go to the loo without pressing on the prolapse to move it out of the way.

I was referred to Guy’s Hospital in London where a fantastic nurse fitted me with pessaries and they were wonderful – I felt myself again as I no longer had the awful dragging, uncomfortable sensation. However, the joy was short-lived as over a few months they kept falling out: usually while I was on the toilet. I was advised that if pessaries weren’t working, the only other option was a hysterectomy. I agreed to this as I was peri-menopauusal and was fed up with my prolapse affecting my daily life.

On the day before my operation on 17th July at St Thomas’s in London, I had an ultrasound scan where they measured my uterus and told me I had a fibroid in it. On the day of the surgery I met the anaesthetist who said that he would be giving me a spinal anaesthetic not a general as it would be better for my recovery.

My reaction was a “F***!; as I had not known that this was a possibility. (I have since learned that this is uncommon but that it’s more common for women to have a spinal and a general anaesthetic as it is considered to give better post-op pain relief.) However, the anaesthetist explained it all and I decided that I was fine with it. In the afternoon I went down and the spinal was applied to my lower back and I waited for it to take effect – they sprayed a cold air on me to check that I was sufficiently numbed and then wheeled me in to the theatre.

It was a very weird experience to be awake. At first I felt panicky and was offered a sedative but did not take it. Someone came to talk to me to distract me. After a while I was more relaxed and I looked around at all the equipment, listened to the conversations of the staff (though I think I only heard short instructions from the surgeons) and almost drifted off as the nurses counted (what I later found out was) my swabs (one: one; two: two and upwards beyond twenty – I forget how many!)

It was odd to feel rummaging around in my body without pain and I was surprised at how much activity and doors opening and closing there was during the op.

After about two and a half hours it was finished. I don’t know why but I was immediately sick over the edge of the bed onto the theatre floor and the staff shouted to get a sick bowl (too late by then!).

I was then wheeled back into the anaethetist’s room as the recovery ward was full and they needed to take the next patient in. Once I was back on the ward I felt suprisingly normal and was so pleased to eat and drink again. I was visited by my surgeons and told I had a big womb that had been difficult to get out, I had bled a lot and had had my cervix removed and anterior and posterior repairs so lots of stitches inside, The doctor recommended I have six to eight weeks off because of all the repairs.

I slept little while in hospital and was uncomfortable and weak all the time. As is usual, I had a catheter in and I was also uncomfortable with wind pain. I left home after two nights in hospital and was glad to be at home. I slept a lot for a few days and kept up with paracetamol and ibruprofen and they were sufficient to keep the pain at bay. I slowly regained my strength and tried very hard to do as little as possible, fearing a recurrence of the prolapse.

I am now five weeks post op and feel much more myself. I’m in two minds as to whether I would ever have surgery without a general anaesthetic again but do not regret having the hysterectomy as it is so good to walk around normally. It is hard for me and other people to appreciate how much healing there is going on inside and I am keeping my fingers crossed I heal well and do not prolapse again. I have an appointment at the gynaecology clinic in November and until then, I’m going to walk lots and keep any lifting to a minimum. I will probably never return to running but hope to take up cycling instead!

All good wishes to everyone, Jill x

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