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Header image: Courtesy Prof. Rohan Jayasekara, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo (2011 - 2014).
IT ONLY HURT WHEN I LAUGHED - The Reality of a 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.
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.
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 painwill 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
ADVICE TO PATIENTS
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.
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
ADVICE TO RELATIVES
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.
ADVICE TO VISITORS
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
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.