A few weeks ago I wrote about this wildly attractive medical condition I have — stress incontinence caused by uterine prolapse. You can probably figure out what this means, but to explain it in plain English, my uterus has fallen down (just a bit) in my lower abdomen and whenever I run, jump, cough, or even laugh really hard, there is a chance I may leak a bit of pee. Just a teeny bit, but it is nevertheless, a tedious condition. And if I drink a nice, big Diet Coke from the fountain at my neighborhood stop-and-shop, there will undoubtedly be an emergency dash to the bathroom about an hour later. Check out my previous article to follow my adventures in diagnosis, but today I want to tell you all about the surgery I finally undertook to cure me of this condition.
It’s been about three weeks since I went under the knife and had something permanently installed in my lower abdomen. My body is no longer 100% organic. This thing is called a suburethral sling. It is a piece of polypropylene anchored on either side of my pubic bone to my abdominal wall and slung under my urethra to hold it up. So now when I cough, run or otherwise put pressure down there, the urethral sphincter will stay shut and I will stay dry.
Let me take you through the process. I arrived at the hospital at 5:30 am. My husband escorted me up to the check in desk, but since he would not be able to hang out with me as I was prepped for surgery, I sent him back home to get the kids off to school and I was on my own. After the usual round of paperwork, I was placed in my holding cell—just a little room where I could interact with a bunch of really nice nurses.
Let me take a little detour here and give a shout out to all the nurses of the world. In the crazy foreign land that is a hospital, these hard-working gals are the heroes and I appreciate the job they do more and more each time I interact. On this trip I especially loved my nurse anesthetist, who was super smart and my best source of information throughout the pre-op process.
Back to my holding cell. All the normal pre-op things happened—get in the robe, answer a bunch of questions about medical history, insert the IVs and more. My doctor arrived, wearing the pre-requisite leopard-print Dansko clogs. She is a super fit woman who looks like she was borne to be a surgeon. She just emanates this aura of over achievement. She performs about 200 of these surgeries per year, so I was really confident in her ability to pull this off. Then the anesthesiologist showed up. I was given some kind of calming drug through the IV and things start to get hazy from here on out. I vaguely remember being wheeled in to surgery and noting that there seemed to be lots of people there to help out, but then the screen goes blank
I woke up one hour later in the recovery room feeling totally groggy. All the doctors were gone but another very competent nurse was there to help. I immediately noticed an incredible feeling of pressure in my lower abdomen. The nurse explained that my vagina was packed full of bandages on account of the incision. To install the sling, the surgeon made two very small incisions (about ½” long) on my lower abdomen, and one more inside my vagina. The pressure was really uncomfortable, but after about 30 minutes she removed the padding and the pressure eased considerably.
I felt OK. I was not experiencing any real pain, more like a sense of tenderness and fatigue down there. The big task that lay before me was taking a whiz. A big post op concern with this surgery is that you will have problems voiding, as they say. You may not be able to pee at all, or you may not be able to completely empty your bladder. So I had to pee in to a little catch basin in the toilet and the nurse made sure that enough had come out. Then she used a catheter to check if there was anything left in my bladder or if it was empty. Luckily I passed that test, because if not, you get sent home with a catheter. No thank you.
As my head began to completely clear from the effects of the anesthesia, they moved me to a little private room to prepare myself for discharge. I was repeatedly offered some crackers and juice, so I finally decided to partake. Big mistake. I was in the bathroom freshening up when I began to feel terribly nauseous. The last thing I wanted to do was hurl up that little saltine. That seemed like it would put tremendous pressure on my lower abdomen, something I was told to avoid at all costs. The danger is that you might rip out the stitches holding in the sling. I was trying to tough through it by sheer force of will, when I suddenly said to myself, “Hey stupid, you’re in a hospital. There are nurses and doctors right outside the door to help you.” So I called the nurse, and sure enough, she ordered an immediate round of IV fluids, which took care of the problem. Within an hour I was dressed, my husband arrived, and we drove home.
So what is my net result? Was the surgery a success? After a few days of really taking it easy in bed—alternating between two hours of movies on TV and two hours of napping, I felt pretty good. And now, three weeks later, I can report that the incontinence has already shown significant signs of improvement. Given the restrictions placed on my activities to avoid excessive pressure on the lower abdomen (no lifting of heavy objects, no exercise other than walking, etc.) I haven’t really pushed this new little sling to its full operating potential, but even what I’m feeling right now is a welcomed change. The days of pulling in my driveway and sprinting from the car to the bathroom appear to be over, although that was always a source of great amusement to my kids. I feel lucky that I had a successful surgery, and lucky that I had decent enough health care insurance to pay for it. Here’s hoping that any gal reading this who is sick of living with this same condition can have the same positive experience that I did.
“Jane Doe” is the pseudonym weBEgirls created for contributors who wish to remain anonymous. If you would like to find out more about pelvic organ prolapse visit www.webMD.com or talk to your doctor.