Women’s Health Care in this Country is a Joke.
TW: lots of talk about blood
May 6th. It’s in my calendar as the day my cycle started. I’m 51 years old and still menstruating. It started out as a “normal” cycle for me: first two days are what I think it’s like to shiv a pig in the neck, then it tapers off…there’s a day where you think you are done and then a laugh or a sneeze sets off a gush, and about 3 days after that, it’s over.
In this case, after the 3 days from The Final Gush, it just started all over again. And there was pain. I don’t usually have pain. Like, ever. Even when this whole adventure in being of child-bearing age started back in the mid-80s, there wasn’t any cramping or pain. Some discomfort maybe. Maybe one person’s “discomfort” is another person’s “pain”. Anyway, I had pain this time around. Odd.
None of this set off alarm bells. Why should it? Any time I’ve gone to a doctor about anything, there are always questions about menstrual cycles and if I’m pregnant and whatnot and before you know it, half of the issues I’m dealing with all lead back to my fucking uterus. I mean, I know men in general think with their dicks but women don’t work that way. Dare I speak for my gender in saying we are not “genitals forward”.
If I called my doctor about “excessive uterine bleeding” by blasting through a tampon and a pad in under an hour, I’d be in the ER every month. I just got used to it and dealt with it and that was that. However, it wasn’t stopping. Like a roller coaster, it would go up and down. I think it would be over and then without warning or normal PMS-symptoms-for-me, it would just start again.
I also noticed a big hard lump in the front where my uterus is. When I went in for a one-year post-abdominoplasty surgery follow up, I asked the doc about it since he was poking in that general area. “Oh, that’s scar tissue” and dismissed it. I thought, “It seems awfully round to be scar tissue.”
I had an Ob-gyn who addressed the excessive bleeding with suggesting an ablation. She said that I could still get pregnant with an ablation and that it would be dangerous to do so and suggested an IUD as well. When I told the hubs about this, I said, “Why not get a vasectomy? Fully reversable and could keep me from having a life-threatening pregnancy?!” His answer: horrified look. I can get my uterus scarred internally which is irreversible and be down for several days to recover but a minimally invasive, walk away procedure that is reversible is horrific? GFY.
She also seemed not too interested in keeping me in her care since I was past the point of having babies. Her office kept ghosting me. I’d call in to make an appointment and it would just be crickets. I was concerned about this lump in the front and got nothing in return. One day, I asked the receptionist I finally got on the phone about what the fuck was going on and she said that the doc was at a baby-birthing conference and wasn’t available. She then said that since I’m not having anymore babies, I should find a different Ob-gyn and referred me to someone else. I called that office and a new patient appointment was 18 fucking months away. I made the appointment and went on with my life, counting down the days.
May of 2022. That’s when this shit started and that’s when my appointment was. Her office called to cancel my new patient appointment and I almost burst into tears on the phone. The receptionist immediately scheduled me for June 1st.
By the time of my appointment, I’ve been bleeding for a month.
I’m there, she’s asking questions. I’m answering. Up on the table, legs spread, ass hanging over the edge, pap smear, physical exam. “Hey doc, what’s that big lump in the front?” “Oh, probably just scar tissue but we need to send you for an ultrasound to see what’s going on in there.” She also prescribes me some meds to help with the bleeding. They do nothing.
June 22nd is the date for the internal ultrasound, or as I call it “The rape stick.”
I don’t make it to June 22nd.
June 10th: I’m bleeding a lot. Like, A LOT, despite the meds she gave me. I call her and tell her this and she sends me to the ER. Never have I ever gone to the ER for “excessive uterine bleeding” and I had good cause not to.
My co-worker takes me to the hospital from work. I check in and tell them why I am there. I have decent vitals, I’m not passing out, I get shunted to an extra waiting area and I wait…for hours. I eventually call my husband to come get me. It’s almost midnight.
The bleeding keeps going. It’s heavy, tampons and pads are pointless. I’m going through clothes like crazy. On Sunday morning, June 12th, I decide to try again. I take myself to the ER and say “This is my second try. My doc wants the ultrasound pronto.” It takes hours but eventually I get one.
What they see isn’t scar tissue. They are fibroids. Two of them the size of baseballs. One in the front, the one I can feel and another one that’s been growing backwards against my colon. Ablation and an IUD isn’t going to help. My uterus needs to come out and the offending fibroids with it.
During the ultrasound, I am crying. Not because it hurts or it’s awkward, which it is but whatever. No, I am crying because I am finally being listened to, someone is taking me seriously. Someone is listening and doing something.
It isn’t scar tissue; they are growths causing major problems that were just passed off as me being dramatic. What the fuck, people? I’ve lived in this body for a while, I know what’s going on with it. FFS, I have had my car for 16 years and the minute I hear a clink, clack or feel a rumble that is a bit off, I know something is wrong and my mechanic listens to what I have to say. Yet when it comes to my physical body, I have no fucking idea what I am talking about?
Go fuck yourself.
I have an appointment with the Ob-gyn on Tuesday, June 14th, to go over the findings. She says that a hysterectomy is the only way to solve this problem. The fibroids are too big, the uterus is fucked, it’s gotta go. I head back to work but I am bleeding so much. By the time I get home, the blood is just pouring out of me in a river. The ambulance takes me to the hospital.
I’m conscious but gushing blood, my vitals are not critical so I get stuck in a wheelchair and rolled to the lobby for 7 hours, to bleed on myself.
I arrived at the hospital with no pants and no shoes. I’m sitting in my own blood, I’ve asked for water and am ignored. I get up from my wheelchair with my bare bloody feet and my bloody sheet and walk to the water fountain, blood coming out. Nothing. No care.
Two college girls walk in around 11pm, they seem fine. One is wearing an ID band the hospital gives you. One asks another nearby patient how long they had been waiting. I chime in that I’ve been sitting in my own blood for 6 hours. They have “oh, shit” looks on their faces.
I eventually pry off my wristband, take out my IV line, throw both on to the bloody chuck in the wheelchair and walk out barefoot, wearing my bloody toga. I say “Good luck” as I leave them with horrified looks on their faces.
By June 15th, I’m so weak and dehydrated from the blood loss that I am having a hard time functioning. Doc makes a reservation at the hospital for me to get a blood transfusion as my hemoglobin and hematocrit are so low, it’s a wonder I’m conscious, which was hard to maintain.
I arrive at the ER check-in desk under pure force of will. Head bent down, ID at the ready, hands on the counter to steady myself.
Nurse asks me, “Checking in? What seems to be the issue?”
“I need to be very clear with you. This is my FOURTH ER visit in a week. I have a bed waiting for me upstairs. I will not be shunted to a corner in the lobby. Please check your computer for a call from Dr. ____. They are expecting me,” and then I fell to my knees on the floor in front of the desk.
I did end up in a wheelchair but with a slip of paper with my room number on it jammed into my hand. Eventually I ended up in a bed with a bag of saline dripping into me. I was so dehydrated that finding veins to take blood samples for before and after my transfusion was difficult. I ended up being poked 12 times in various parts of my arms just looking for veins that wouldn’t collapse…
One bag of blood was dropped into me overnight. It raised my hemoglobin from 6, which is where I was when I got to the ER, all the way up to 8.1! Holy moly!
The low end of normal is 11.
I was sent home because my hemoglobin did not drop significantly from 8.1 for several hours.
I did feel better but not great. I still don’t. Walking up the stairs requires a nap. I am taking a lot of iron supplements, I am consuming them with juice, I am not drinking coffee or tea when I take them as tannins interfere with the body’s ability to absorb iron.
My body just cannot hold on to it. It is going somewhere…
If I miss even one dose of the meds I am taking, I can feel my uterus getting ready to party. That estrogen and progesterone drop even a little and my babymaker is ready to fuck some shit up.
These fibroids have been years in the making. That Ob-gyn that ghosted me knew they were there and it took so long to get a new doctor that they tripled in size in the meantime.
This country does not give one flaming fuck about women’s healthcare. My blood transfusion was medically necessary and my insurance company denied it, saying that their reviewing doctor would have just gone with “observation” instead. I plan to appeal.
Is my insurance company going to deny my medically necessary hysterectomy, too? Should I just stay on massive amounts of hormones for who-knows-how-long until my ovaries and uterus finally give the fuck up? The side effects of such things will only cause MORE fucking problems.
My quality of life is dismal at the moment. I am always to fucking tired that caffeine and sugar are keeping me functioning. Eh, who cares about women’s quality of life anyway, right? If I’m supposed to be a good little homemaker, shouldn’t I have what I need to parent my children into well-functioning adults who can contribute to society and capitalism? Isn’t that the point of all this anyway?
I can hear it now. “Oh, she’s hysterical. She’s emotional. PMSing. Menstrual cycles make women crazy.” I’m none of those things but I am fucking tired of being treated like a second-class citizen in supposedly the finest country on the planet.