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Archive for September 14th, 2015

Uterus

Now, isn’t that just a snappy title?

I just had mine removed. At bloody (sic) last.

For years, my uterus has been little more than a nuisance. I’ve been briefly pregnant a few times, rapidly resulting in painful miscarriages at home – too early to represent more than pain. Then, after we moved to Austria, my periods got longer and more painful, about half of my time went into dealing with blood and pain and the other half into dreading its onset.

And this is where I have to admit I am a wimp. I don’t like going to doctors, and more than that, I don’t like being intimately touched by anyone other than my husband. You can only imagine how long it took me before I dug up a gynaecologist to see if there was anything one could do about all this pain and blood.

He (why on earth are there so few women in this profession?) discovered that I had myomas and instantly told me I needed a hysterectomy. And that’s when I realised that I would have liked to be a mum first. So I got a second opinion (another male with at least slightly less resemblance to a plumber, rather more a Humpty Dumpty) and the option to have the crap removed, leaving me “intact”.

And that was it for a while. My periods were tiny after that, and there was almost no pain! Apart from the emotional pain of divorcing my then husband who wanted nothing to do with the “women trouble” as I’ve heard a few people of the male persuasion call it in their pusillanimous state of being where most things female are concerned. So time went by and it took a while before it became really clear to me that I was not going to get pregnant without external interference from more than my new partner. Not ideal for the wimp in me but needs must and so on.

I was given the final devastating blow at the AKH (Allgemeines Krankenhouse – Vienna’s central hospital) where I was told in no uncertain terms by a large, bitter, hard-voiced woman that my eggs were crap and that the likelihood of me conceiving with my own eggs would amount to no less than a medical sensation.

Then the myomas came back with a vengeance. I trotted off to Humpty Dumpty and demanded a hysterectomy. However, I was this time sent to a Catholic hospital where they went against our joint decision without even consulting me and only removed the growths. Gotta love the Catholics. They really do think they represent god on earth.

Went through another period of acceptable and predictable pain cycles before I once more came to realise that I spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about having tampons and painkillers with me at all times. And also planning my life around easy access to toilets. How on earth do women in India cope??

My squeamishness about doctors had not abated, though, in spite of me surely being more used to it by now? No, some things are not easily ousted from one’s life. Imagine my pleasure when I discovered a female gynaecologist just two minutes’ walk away. It still took me more than a month to actually contact her for an appointment, and then I nearly gave up when the answering machine was in a male voice revealing that it was a practice with several doctors – I immediately imagined being slotted in with whoever was available and it being yet another male.

Now, here is one thing I don’t get. When I asked around a little among my female friends, several had the rather odd idea that female gynaecologists are, for no apparent reason, “worse” than male. That they are supposed to be rougher during the examination and have less empathy. When asked what they based this on, they were only able to say it was what they had heard, and this was enough for all of them to not put effort into finding a woman. No first-hand experience, just blatant willingness to accept rumour.

I can now, with first-hand experience, refute this rumour. My new gynaecologist is the best I have ever had, and it was the least painful exam I have ever had. She even made sure to assess my smallness and find the smallest speculum to cause as little discomfort as possible. That was a first. Men seem to think “if a penis fits, anything fits” – they must have watched too much porn.

Dr. A. could confirm my suspicions and though she was a little taken aback by my instant request for a hysterectomy, she was also in total agreement. AND – she was able to perform the procedure herself at the aforementioned AKH.

This is where things went a bit nuts.

Within a few days she had an appointment for the op which then had to be prepared for in haste with a number of tests (blood-count, mammography, x-ray etc.) during which time I had the dubious pleasure of meeting all sorts of confused and ill people trying to cope with the Austrian medical system, and then I was sucked into the general hospital that is the AKH. Bed allocated with stunning views of Vienna, two room-mates who were both in the early stages of pregnancy. I somehow wish hysterectomies could be kept separate from pregnancies in the hospitals, but who am I to complain.

I was operated on a Thursday. On Friday I rolled out of bed and started walking. The AKH is a deadly dull and large hospital with endless corridors and nowhere to go for patients. I was instructed to walk as much as possible, drink lots, eat regular meals and all that jazz – but where to go? And I had to let the head nurse know if I wanted to leave the ward, and the end of the ward was all of 30 metres away. In the end they were wailing, “just go!” when I waddled up to the door to report that I was going for a walk.

In my wanderings around the hospital I must have visited most of the other wards (it’s amazing where they will let you go if you wear a hospital bracelet) and when Thomas came to see me insisted on going to the restaurant on the ground floor for a much needed glass of wine. Which I got in spite of the sign that clearly stated they would not serve alcohol to underaged and patients. Gotta love this country!

I was out again in record time and back home with my babies. Mischa had gone into a depression (again) while I was away, but on  my return he picked up considerably. We got five days together, five days of slow walks and careful cuddles. For the past few months, he had shied away from close hugs as it seemed to hurt him. But these few days he went back to his old habit of leaning his head against my chest in greeting. And I was in a position to devote myself to him as the instructions were clear: no excessive exercise for the next couple of weeks. His slow walks were just right.

Saturday 12 September, at 4am I woke up from Mischa retching. Nothing came up but he looked thoroughly miserable. I brought him and his bed to the kitchen and lay next to him on the floor holding his paw to calm him. From time to time he would try to vomit again.

At dawn we went to the “Hof” (a sort of inside yard in a Viennese tenement building). There, the pain he was experiencing caused him to have a seizure, after which I stood just holding him for 20 minutes while he got his breath back, then slowly led him to his mattress where I helped him lie down. I sat with his head in my lap for the next hours, watching the sun come up, watching a woodpecker have his breakfast, and watching Mischa doze a little while breathing shallowly. I was debating with myself the whole time – is this the end?

Thomas brought me a cup of tea and a blanket for Mischa. I finally called the vet.

20150912_100933At 10:30 we helped Mischa into our bike-trailer and wheeled him to the vet where he scrambled painfully and fearfully to his paws – he knew where he was. Inside the practice, he just wanted to get out. But her check-up confirmed one thing only – he was in irreversible pain, already the maximum pain treatment he could have, and anything we could do would only give him days. Or perhaps that should read “would only give me days” – because at this stage, keeping Mischa alive would have been a completely selfish thing to do.

I gently patted his bum, and he slid down on the floor. The vet set a needle in the artery on his left front paw, and at 10:45 the overdose was administered. With my cheek against his, he leant into my arms, the pain creases in his face smoothed and his breathing slowed. Then he took two short breaths, exhaled and went limp. I listened carefully as his breath slowed and stopped, as his heartbeat got weaker and disappeared all together. And I cried.

I have not felt lonelier than I do now in more than seven years.

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