I’ve been kind of muddling over the past few weeks.
The thing is, I’m really lucky. I’m lucky things weren’t worse. That they didn’t get worse.
But I’m also feeling pretty angry.
I know it’s said time and time again that the healthcare system in the US is atrocious. And the truth is, we’ve always had great care. Great doctors. We’ve been fortunate to have good health insurance where we never have had to question if we should take our kids to the doctor or not due to costs, etc. We’ve always been seen immediately when needed.
We’ve been lucky.
A few weeks ago I drove to Minnesota with 4 of my kiddos (Miss H stayed behind with J). Without going into too much graphic or gory detail, what I assumed was my menstrual cycle returned while on this trip, but in a semi-terrifying way. I’d never lost this much blood, even post-partum, but I was in no pain so I simply accepted it and made it work, including making the 12 hour drive home that Monday.
I assumed it would pass, as it was worse in the mornings, and then seemed to taper out by the afternoon, but it wasn’t letting up. On Tuesday, day 4 of this, I finally called my gynecologist’s office. Since I had three babies in 3.5 years, I had not been into her office in over four years, as she was not my back up doctor if I had needed to transfer to the hospital for any reason. Because of this, I was not considered an active patient, and was told I would need to re-establish care with that office, and they could get me in at the end of December. It was the middle of September. And I was hemorrhaging now.
They encouraged me to go to the ER with my presenting symptoms.
I then called the obstetrician’s office whom I had used for pre-natal care and who would have delivered my babies if I’d needed to birth in the hospital for whatever reason. Since I was more than 6 weeks post partum, I was no longer considered a patient at that office either, and again, was encouraged to go to the ER. With my symptoms they insisted I would need an ultrasound and they were not certain if walk-in clinics would have the equipment, so the ER would be my best bet.
So I called my husband home from work. I left my tiny little baby. And I went to the ER.
So in the waiting room, where I waited for nearly 2 hours (this isn’t a thing in Hawaii, by the way. Like they are calling you back before you are even fully checked in and are the most efficient doctors and nurses in the world. And it’s not because they aren’t busy, they just have a stellar system that other hospitals could adopt, but don’t because, I don’t know why. They suck.) I’m pretty certain a gentleman had a full fledged heart attack in the waiting room, but no one with medical training seemed alarmed, so there was that. They finally called me back.
I tell three different people what’s been going on before I see the doctor. No problem.
The first thing the doctor asks me after introducing himself and making me tell him the whole shebang again, is if I have anxiety. He fucking asks me if I have anxiety while I’m literally hemorrhaging on the table.
He then tells me he’s going to check things out. I have blood clots the size of the palm of my hand. This has been the norm now for four days.
He assures me there are no tears on my cervix.
And I look at him like he’s lost his mind I’m sure, though it’s not intentional, and ask him if that’s a serious concern we currently have because I’ve literally never heard of that nor was it a concern I personally had. I do refrain from telling him I’d had waaaay too much time in the waiting room to confer with Dr. Google, and there are a solid 2,938,473 reasons why this could be happening, tears on my cervix is not one of them.
He tells me I’m just having my first post partum period and it’s a little heavy and I’m just overly worried.
For fucking real.
I assure him that I’ve done this a few times and know my body fairly well, this is something more.
Again, he tells me I’m just having my period and I’m fine to go home.
I tell him that my mother has a history of fibroids and could this maybe be something I have and be causing the hemorrhaging? He shrugs and says maybe, and then tells me I should make an appointment with my gyno. (I did. But remember, she can’t see me until December).
And he leaves.
And I leave. In my hands are discharge papers that state all the symptoms in which I should return immediately to the ER if I experience; literally all the symptoms I am in that moment experiencing as I’m being discharged.
The week goes on. I keep hemorrhaging. I’m tired. Everything I own is now ruined. Sheets. Pants. I’m afraid to go anywhere because when I least expect it I find blood gushing down my legs.
I call doctors. No one will see me. I’m not an established patient. It will take months to get in.
The ER keeps telling me to just go see a gynecologist.
No one is listening.
It’s like being in a wind tunnel. I’m screaming at the top of my lungs that something isn’t right, but no one is listening to me. No one can hear me.
I feel desperate.
But I’m also super healthy. I’ve never really needed a doctor.
I start to second guess myself.
Maybe that ER doctor is right. Maybe it’s just a normal post partum period and I’m building it up to be something more than what it really is. He deduced me to a hysterical little girl, and maybe he was right.
But also. No.
J leaves early Sunday morning. Over a week since this all began.
Huh. Over a week.
It dawns on me that even if it were just a heavy post-partum period, it shouldn’t last more than week.
One more time.
I call my mom to come stay with my kids, cancelling plans we’d had for that day. I go to a walk-in because I need different results than what the ER keeps giving me. I need someone to listen to me.
And you know?
The fabulous PA in the walk-in that literally got me back within minutes listens. She hears me. She nods her head and shakes her head, her eyes wide. Not once does she think I’m being silly.
She tells me she wants to run a few blood tests and give me an ultrasound. Something is not right with my body.
Finally. Some one is listening to me.
First though, she has to call the OBGYN who is on-call and confer with him.
She steps out of the room for a few minutes and then comes back in. I know it’s disappointing news all ready.
“I’m really sorry,” she says, “But Dr. X says with your symptoms, you really just need to go straight the ER.”
BUT I HAVE.
I start to cry. I really don’t mean to. And I’m not a crier. But oh my goodness. How long is this going to cycle back and forth? For how long can I do this? At what point will I just bleed everything out? I’m really tired now.
So I leave, and I do not go to the ER.
Another gynecologist can get me in the day after Thanksgiving.
Okay. That’s the soonest. It will have to be good enough, I guess.
But Monday morning whirls around and my original gynecologist’s office calls to make a follow up. What? Great! The PA from the walk-in sent them my info. Perfect.
But then the lady on the phone goes to make my appointment and tells me I’m not actually a patient, so she can’t. But she’ll patch me through to the nurse so I can talk to her.
Sweet Baby Jesus give me strength.
I relay everything to the nurse on the other end of the phone. And she tells me what I’m all ready anticipating: “With those symptoms you need to go straight to the ER.”
The ER won’t see me. They tell me to go to my doctor. My doctor won’t see me because I haven’t needed her in the past few years.
So I tell this nurse that they called me to make an appointment, not the other way around. They needed to see me. Now. Today.
I’m sure I sounded desperate at this point. I’m all alone with five little kids. My husband is an ocean away. My mom is in another country. I need to be not so tired so I can function. I need to be able to go to the grocery store and not fear I’ll leave a blood trail on their tile floors. I need a doctor to listen to me.
The nurse agrees. She hears me. My desperation. They get me in at 1:30 that afternoon.
As the ultrasound tech takes more pictures than have ever been taken while pregnant, I’m not even surprised when the OBGYN comes in to tell me there is a mass of “something” in my uterus. She’s assuming it’s placenta. I’m trying not to look at her like she has 12 heads because my baby is 11 weeks and I’d pretty much be dead if it were placenta (I have no fever, no pain); though I don’t care. She can think it’s anything she wants, an elephant for all I care so long as they do something. And with the rate at which I’m bleeding, she sends me straight to the hospital, do not pass go, do not collect $200, for a D&C.
All while I’m piecing together care for my five babies and trying not to panic because I’m going to have to go under and what is in my uterus and my husband isn’t here and omg, what if I just don’t wake up and all.the.things are going through my brain.
When it was all said and done, I was borderline in need of a transfusion; the OBGYN on call was surprised I wasn’t worse off if I’d been hemorrhaging all week the way I was there at the hospital. I showed her photos of blood clots that horrified her. I consented to a blood transfusion only if it was absolutely necessary, simply because there are a host of issues that can arise with that, and fortunately was able to evade that need.
In a nutshell, which I learned at my follow up appointment two weeks later (and was another sort of hell to make that appointment, but this is long enough), I learned that a nearly 2-inch fibroid was removed, and she was actually surprised she was able to remove it during the D&C because it was bigger than she was expecting and took a bit of work.
You guys. This could have all been dealt with that very first time I went into the ER if the doctor had just listened. If he’d given me an ultrasound and actually listened I could have dealt with this while my husband was home and my mom was in the country and when things didn’t seem quite so terrifying and exhausting.
But welcome to America. We totally listen to women when they say something is wrong with their bodies.
Also. We have first class healthcare.