Warning: this is a personal post reflecting on my experience of a laparoscopy to diagnose endometriosis and a night in hospital.
I had been worried the laparoscopy would be postponed due to the infuriating appearance of cold symptoms right before it. My temperature was slightly raised, but the nurse said that wouldn’t hold me back. The anaesthetist wasn’t concerned either by the mild cough or sore throat. I still wanted reassurance that I wouldn’t choke to death under the general anaesthetic, so I casually asked whether it would “be a problem” if there was catarrh in the back of my nose/throat. He replied that it wouldn’t be able to go anywhere it shouldn’t, as he would be putting a tube down my wind pipe anyway…! Apparently they don’t usually tell patients this…
I had been feeling fine about having the op, looking forward to getting clarity on whether I had endometriosis – and if so, getting it treated and moving on. But nerves did get the better of me when it came to walking into the anaesthetic room, getting on my trolley surrounded by scary-looking machines, hearing them prepping up the surgery room through the double doors at the other end… then hearing my heart beeping rapidly through a machine. The anaesthetist gave me a couple of shots of sedative to begin with, which immediately made me woozy and I remember commenting on that. And mercifully I think that’s about the last thing I remember.
Until some time later, opening my eyes at the sound of my name, my consciousness rebooting with no sense of temporal continuity; knowing I was in hospital but not immediately realising that I had had my surgery. I can’t be sure how much time passed between opening my eyes to nurses’ faces, and the appearance of my surgeon’s face and voice – it seemed immediate. I tried hard to record in memory what he was telling me. I had endometriosis; I should keep trying to get pregnant. Something about a problem with one of my tubes? I later thought I remembered being shown a photo, but couldn’t be sure.
The first hours of recovery passed quickly, punctuated by little surprises: sipping water through a straw and finding my swallowing mechanism hard to control. A bit of nausea whenever I tried to sit up. The discovery of dressed incisions, pads, iodine painted on my skin. At some point I seem to have taken a selfie. 🙂 After a while I felt more back to normal and was able to eat a sandwich – slowly, as my mouth and throat were like a desert. My other half came to see me for a bit but I couldn’t go home with him. I had yet to get enough water through me, and would have to collect any pee I was able to produce through the night and write my bed number on the cardboard vessels, much to my amusement, for the nurses to measure it later.
My first ever night in a hospital ward was mostly a sleepless one, but a surprisingly happy and tranquil one. I got short bursts of sleep; I would wake with the noise of a machine beeping somewhere nearby or a person coughing and then find myself wide-eyed for long stretches, comfortable in this warm, dark, safe environment of recuperation and care, on a mind-blowingly comfy bed, my whole body in a state of calm and with an enormous feeling of well-being – feelings I hadn’t had for a very long time. I reflected on having got through the operation and got myself cleaned up and comfy, and recognition of this filled me with a sense of self-confidence. I felt practically invincible!
It was only when the cocktail of drugs finally wore off the next day that I realised the true source of these feelings! I had wondered why I wasn’t in more pain, though. And niggling away somewhere in my head that night was the unanswered question of what had actually been done during the laparoscopy. Seeing cuts on either side of my lower abdomen, I assumed that my endometriosis had been treated, but I didn’t remember the surgeon actually saying that.
In the morning, the staff nurse attempted to decipher the surgeon’s notes with me, but it mostly seemed to be a catalogue of adhesions found, a list of organs stuck to other organs… “Where does it say about my treatment?” She suggested I phone the surgeon’s secretary later on to ask for fuller information. As it happened, though, both the anaesthetist and the surgeon came around before I left. I got to see the photo again – and it was a horrible stringy mess. I finally learned that the endo was too extensive to do anything about on this occasion – all they could do was take stock of the situation. They put dye through my fallopian tubes and saw it come out quickly from one tube, but with a delay from the other. This may have helped clear them out a bit. But the best he could say about my current prospects for pregnancy was that I “could be fertile” and should certainly keep trying, but that the follow-up appointment would go through next steps with me.
Recovering at home for the last few days, the nirvana has definitely passed. I feel more emotionally bruised than anything else. I’m now a bit fed up of the constant awareness of my wounds and vigilance to notice the slightest sign of a complication or infection. But I also seem to be in a kind of intermittent grief. I have bad endometriosis: I can’t quite take it in. I keep looking back at our efforts to conceive so far – the excited and fearful anticipation, the stress – and just feeling so sad that it was seemingly all destined to be in vain; that for who knows how long, unseen, rampant endometrial cells have been busy weaving their cruel cobwebs between my organs, stitching me – and now my emotions – up in a nasty tangle.
It makes sense of a few things: the horrifically painful periods I sometimes experienced when I was very young; the episode of intense abdominal pain a couple of summers ago that I’d thought was a kidney stone; the recent and more constant aching hum in my pelvis… and the persistent cyst that had been seen on ultrasound scans. In truth, though, I am very lucky not to have had far worse symptoms.
I will just have to see what the consultant suggests next. The only thing that’s clear is that more uncertainty lies ahead.