Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sriani Snippets 5

IT ONLY HURT WHEN I LAUGHED - The Reality of a Hysterectomy
Sriani Basnayake

Hysterectomy or the surgical removal of the womb is a very common operation today. Unfortunately, many women are terrified at the thought of undergoing this operation, and the explanations of their gynaecologists seem to be nullified by the negative facts trotted out by every woman they subsequently meet, who has had a hysterectomy, or knows someone who has had one. I suppose human nature is such that one tends to believe the story of someone who has actually experienced the procedure, rather than the doctor who advises them not to worry, that it is a simple operation etc…etc..for they feel that somehow he hasn’t undergone the procedure himself.

This is what prompted me to write this article to ‘Lanka Woman’, for I had a hysterectomy done three weeks ago, and I thought that I would be able to help and reassure many women by sharing my experiences as a patient.

Fortunately there wasn’t much of a time lag between the decision to operate, and the date of the operation. However, in that week, everyone whom I met who had undergone the procedure, or had stayed with such a patient in hospital, told me that it is extremely painful for the first two, three or four days, (it differed in different cases) but not to worry for the pain  will gradually decrease with time. Even though I was a doctor, some went to the extent of kindly volunteering to relate various rare complications that occurred in their patients. All in all a pretty grim picture was painted. Even though it did upset me at the start, I chose to forget the negative thoughts, and placed myself in God’s hands.

The evening before my operation, the Archdeacon anointed me, and at the end of his prayers, all my residual fears and apprehensions vanished, and a wonderful calm settled over me.

My brief sojourn in hospital can be summarized as follows – The operation was performed on a Thursday morning. On Friday morning, I got out of bed, walked out of my room, and was sitting on the verandah outside when my Gynaecologist came on his morning round. My stitches were removed on Saturday, and I was discharged on Monday morning, and advised to take a bath. So I came home, and stood under the shower and felt thoroughly refreshed. On the seventh day I was gently pruning my rose plants despite violent protests from my daughter.

Due to the post operative sedation, my recollections of Day One are hazy, but I must emphasize the fact that I had absolutely no pain whatsoever from the second day onwards. I dare say there was that slight pain when getting in and out of bed, or coughing, but that was all. This is the absolute truth, and for a person like me, whose pain threshold is very low, it was remarkable not to experience any post operative pain. Those who visited me in hospital will vouch for this, for some remarked that I didn’t look as if I even had a tooth out, while others said that I looked the same as I did sitting in office.

The only time I experienced pain was when I was visited by an eminent surgeon in the General Hospital, who is as well known for his transplant surgery as for his inexhaustible storehouse of jokes. He used to pop into my room each morning while on his rounds. His jovial disposition was an instant mood elevator for any patient, which I’m sure, accelerated my recovery process. Each day he left my room cracking a naughty joke, and that was the only time when my wound really hurt, for I could not stop laughing for the next five minutes.

I must be grateful to have been in the hands of a wonderful Gynaecologist, whose personal charm equals his surgical skills, and I feel that both these attributes are equally important as far as the welfare of the patient is concerned.

I know that very few patients would have the good fortune that I had of having one of my medical batch mates as the skilled Anaesthetist in attendance. Additionally, I had that extra bit of luck to have a caring niece as the House Officer.


Carefully follow the instructions given by your doctor both pre and post operatively, and you will have no problems. Never compare instructions with those given to your friends, for each case can be different.

I was advised to get operated on at the General Hospital Colombo, and I am ever grateful for that advice, for despite a few other comforts or privileges one may enjoy at a Private Hospital, you can’t match the Theatre and Emergency facilities, and availability of trained nurses, as found in a Government Hospital.


I know how anxious family members are to be with their loved one before she is wheeled off to the Operating Theatre. At such a time, please do try hard to look bright and cheerful, and crack a joke if you can, for the way you look during those vital few minutes can have a profound effect on the morale of the patient. On many occasions I have seen relatives stand round the patient and gaze down at her like the chief mourners at a grave side. The poor patient may feel that she is being given a tearful final farewell. I felt like that momentarily when my Mother bent down and kissed me before I was wheeled out to the Theatre. The look on her face, (I don’t blame her, she may have been terrified) and the kiss had only to be coupled with the words “deepest sympathies” and she could easily have been at a funeral house. Fortunately this was counteracted by the beaming faces of my daughter and cousins, together with the thrill of going down in that ancient contraption of a lift in Merchant’s Ward, which is manually operated on a system of pulleys and ropes.


Be thoughtful enough not to visit a patient for 24 hours, or preferably 48 hours after major surgery. You don’t need to be a doctor to be able to look at a patient’s face and gauge whether she is in pain, or in a mood to carry on a conversation with you. If she doesn’t look up to the mark, make your visit as brief as possible. Please don’t keep talking endlessly and then ask the patient “how do you feel”, for she can never tell you plainly “I feel like throttling you”!

I had such a pleasant stay in hospital that I could hardly believe that I had undergone major surgery. In addition to the expert surgical and medical attention provided by the doctors and hospital staff, there were so many other factors which I feel contributed to my comfortable and happy stay in the ward.

The care, concern and kindness shown by my friends and colleagues, some of whom arranged a roster to be with me for the first two days, was overwhelming. I go crazy over flowers, and many showed their concern by saying it with flowers. It was wonderful to come out of anaesthesia and find myself surrounded by masses of exquisite flower arrangements and roses sent by thoughtful friends.

The humorous episodes are also unforgettable. My four year old niece Amrita had been taken to a hospital on very few occasions, and these had always been to visit Aunts after childbirth. So you can imagine her disappointment when she searched all over the room (and under my sheet) and couldn’t find the baby!

Children, these days, are very advanced. Amrita and my five year old nephew Caesar wanted to know where the cut was, its length, was it sewn up with thread, or pasted with sellotape, gum or paste, plus a whole host of other ‘surgical’ details. By this time they had climbed on to my bed, and were perched precariously over my abdomen, and as curiosity would not only have killed the cat, but their Aunt as well, I agreed to a “special exposition” just for the two of them!

I hope that my experience will help to allay the fears and anxieties of Lanka Woman readers who may have to undergo a hysterectomy in the future. Should your gynaecologist advise you that such an operation is necessary, don’t hesitate or postpone it, for today it is a very simple procedure, and you can take it from the horse’s mouth – it only hurt when I laughed.

(This article was first published in the Lanka Woman paper on the 8th of May 1991)

It was written mainly to allay the fears of so many women who are terrified at the thought of having to undergo a hysterectomy. After the article appeared in “Lanka woman”, I got at least 20-30 calls from unknown women, thanking me for dispelling unwanted fears, and giving them the courage to face the operation.



1 comment:

  1. Sriani
    We appreciate your fine journalistic ability and clarity of thought which is a rare combination even among journalists. Please continue to write to this Blog. Yes, Sweni is my aunt on paper but we remain good friends as we have done for a very long time.