This is my daughter's story, which is also a story of immense courage through years of constant pain, and abdominal operations. It is also the story of a tiny miracle, my granddaughter.
Katie's menstruation started in her mid-teens and was very painful from the first. She had no proper cycle, but would go perhaps months without a period, and then have 2 or even 3 in the space of four weeks. She was in constant pain, which would even radiate down into her legs. Her bleeding was not normal, with either huge clotting or very little blood at all.
Although we had gone through the usual mother and daughter talks about how a woman's body works, she did not realise that what was happening to her was in no way normal. The first inkling I had that she was in a lot of trouble was when she told me she had been bleeding constantly for six weeks. I was horrified, and immediately took her to the doctor. He didn't seem terribly dismayed by her history of irregular and terribly painful menses, and advised that the contraceptive pill would regulate her cycle and help with pain.
To an extent the pill helped her, but not with the pain. She would be white in the face and doubled over, hardly able to stand. We tried endless painkillers, until we were advised by doctors at Accident and Emergency that she could take a combination of Ibuprofen and Paracetamol to relieve the pain.
A few months after her 25th birthday she was taken to A & E with crippling pain, and was given a series of scans and tests. They found a mass near her ovary. At first it was thought that this was "faeces" but the Gynaecologist wanted to do an exploratory operation as he was not convinced. She reacted very badly to the anaesthetic, and started vomiting before she was properly awake. She had a reaction to morphine, and her face and throat swelled. When she was properly awake she found six doctors with her, all in shock. They said that they had found her ovary was five times the size it should be, and it appeared cancerous. They had taken one look at it, and stopped the operation. As our local hospital has no facilities for radiation or chemotherapy, they were getting her an appointment with the Royal Womens Hospital.They had found severe endometriosis also, it was all through her abdomen, and even on her bowel. So she was still in pain, and now had the operation to recover from as well.
Four weeks later, having finally recovered and started back to work, she was again rushed to A & E with agonising pain and vomiting. The Gynae doctor decided that they couldn't leave her, so they would operate and then get her any follow-up therapy at the Royal. Again, she was violently ill after the operation. The same scenario afterwards was a severe blow to all of us. They had gone in with the camera, taken one look and pulled out. She had a massive pelvic inflammation from the first operation. So - again - she had an operation to recover from but the same condition as before she went in. This time she was on mega antibiotics and pain relief.
The Gynae doctor had decided he would still remove the ovary, and they booked her in as a Category 1 patient. Another four weeks, and she was back in theatre. This time they removed the ovary, and burned off as much of the endometriosis as they could see. Much is not visible, unfortunately. The endometriosis is the reason for the severe pain she was suffering, and for her body's inability to establish a proper menstrual cycle. Her ovary was sent to the laboratory to test for cancer.
To our huge relief, there was no cancer - which the Gynae doctor thought was a minor miracle. By this time she weighed only 46 kilos. (7 stone 2lbs)
On her follow up visit the Head of Gynaecology saw her again, and changed her pill. He advised that there was an almost certain chance the other ovary would also become a huge fibroma. He told her that it would be difficult, if not impossible for her to conceive, due to the scarring from the endometriosis. And added that if she wanted children she should try for pregnancy well before she was 30. After this age it would become more and more difficult to conceive.
She was experiencing a little relief from pain after the endo had been burned off, but not a great deal. Through the next five or so years she had bouts of severe pain, especially when she was under any stress. Then one day my phone rang and it was my daughter, telling me that she thought she was pregnant. I was trying so very hard not to be excited! She had decided she wouldn't even try for a family, and at this time she had only been with her partner for six months. She felt she was in no way ready to have a child, and was in a great deal of distress. Over the course of the next few weeks she was out of control emotionally, and couldnt understand why. Her HCG levels were about twice what they should be, and she was experiencing wild mood swings.
She called one night to tell me that she had had dreadful pain and had gone to a Medical Centre, where the doctor had suspected an ectopic pregnancy. He had sent her to the Royal, for scans and tests. They scanned and found there was a normal uterine pregnancy, so did not look any further. They also said that BOTH ovaries were normal! Two weeks went by, with the pain continuing, until one day at work she felt as if someone had driven a knife into her.
She actually drove to her own gp, who also diagnosed an ectopic pregnancy, and told A & E to be ready for her. She then drove home to us, which I couldn't believe. I rushed her to the hospital, she was by this time unable to even put her foot to the ground for the severity of the pain.
The lady doctor in charge of A & E that day ordered further scans - they found 'free fluid' but could not decide what it was. The doctor was certain that she was looking at a heterotopic pregnancy. That is, where there is a normal uterine pregnancy and at the same time an ectopic pregnancy. My daughter was in agony and yet was refusing pain killers. She was afraid she would start being sick all over again. After convincing her that the pain was causing her more harm than pain relief, she consented. The doctor also started antibiotics by IV. As the antibiotics started to enter her bloodstream she felt them burning her, and a short while later she began convulsing. She also went into cardiac arrest.
When they had her stabilised again she was told that some of the doctors thought she may have appendicitis, and therefore they could not operate until they had two teams standing by, one from Gynae and one Surgical. She was not allowed to get up, as the Head of A & E was convinced she had a heterotopic pregnancy and walking would be dangerous. She was under constant supervision. Then there was a change of shift. The doctor who took over completely poo poohed the idea of a heterotopic pregnancy, saying the chances were probably 500 thousand to one. He slowly downgraded her condition. She was still in agony.
Thirty-six hours after admission, she was now on the ward but had still not been to theatre. One of the resident doctors was horrified and immediately started making a fuss.
Many hours later the Gynae team finally operated on her. Once back on the ward after recovery she was yet again terribly sick. She kept getting worse instead of better, and it was thought that her kidneys were failing. This carried on all afternoon, and she was so ill she was only allowed visitors for 10 minutes. That night I suddenly noticed that she had a drain bag on, and yet it was completely empty. I called the nurse to question this. At first the nurse said that if there was no fluid the bag would be empty, but when I expressed doubt she checked - to find that the drain had been turned off. When she turned it on my girl felt extreme pain, and then a little later she started to improve, and stopped being sick.
The outcome of the operation was that she HAD had a heterotopic pregnancy, in fact she had had ectopic twins, and the damage to her fallopian tube was so massive that the tube could not be saved. Through all of this, the drugs, the anaesthetic, the antibiotics - one tiny life clung on inside her.
Her pregnancy is a story in itself, as is the delivery. However, on 26th January, 2008 her tiny daughter Sophia Ruth was born, perfect in every way. Both families rejoiced and still do. This little fighter overcame so many obstacles and beat all the odds to come into the world. Because my daughter now has an ovary on one side and a tube on the other, and massive scarring, together with other problems, there will be no other grandchildren. So we all lavish our love and devotion on our miracle girl.
I am so proud of the courage and strength my daughter Katrina has shown over the years, and even prouder of her as a mother, because she is one in a million. We are so fortunate to have them both.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
The Story Of Two Miracles
Labels: Personal Stories