A WOMAN who had 14 fibroids including one “the size of a six-month-old foetus” nearly died during emergency surgery to remove them. For more than three years, Bridget Taylor, 40, had suffered heavy periods, fatigue, bloating, thinning hair and feeling generally unwell. Despite visiting her doctor on several occasions to share her concerns, the freelance events manager was told she was probably just run down. It was only after a blood test revealed low iron levels, that Taylor learned something was seriously wrong.
She later admitted herself to the A&E department of Kensington and Chelsea Hospital in west London when she noticed her stomach had become unusually swollen. Staff attempted to do a smear test but couldn’t because something was blocking it. Taylor was referred to a gynaecologist and because she had private health care, she was able to get an appointment the next day.
The doctor discovered Taylor had two fibroids, one of which was larger than a head of lettuce, the other pea-sized. “When I had the ultrasound scan that’s when they saw the first fibroid that was the size of a six-month-old foetus,” she said.
During major surgery to remove them, surgeons discovered twelve more fibroids. The operation nearly took Taylor’s life. She was told the operation would take about 30 minutes but due to the extent of her fibroids, she was in theatre for five hours. She recalls: “After the operation, the next morning the surgeon came in to see me and gave me a big hug and said: ‘Miss Taylor, do you believe in God? In nine out of 10 cases you would be dead.’” Her consultants told her that she had started to bleed out and they were about to carry out a hysterectomy [removal of the entire womb] but for some reason the bleeding stopped. “The consultant said no one has ever had that number of fibroids and managed to avoid a hysterectomy or blood transfusion,” she added.
Uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) lumps that develop in the womb and are common with around 40 in every 100 women developing them at some time in their life. They most often occur in women aged from 30 to 50 years old, but can develop in women younger and older. Fibroids are two to three times more common in African Caribbean women and they also tend to be larger and more numerous. Many women are unaware that they have fibroids because they have no symptoms. However, around one in every three women with fibroids experiences some symptoms that may include heavy, long and painful periods, bleeding between periods, feeling ‘full’ in the lower part of the stomach, pain or discomfort during sex, problems getting pregnant and miscarriages.
Because of the severity of Taylor’s fibroids they could not be removed by laser. It meant major surgery – which could have resulted in hysterectomy – was her only option. “I was so shocked as I was only 31 at the time,” she said. “I had just started a new relationship and I was worried that I would not be able to have children. Because of the operation I was having – a myomectomy – there is an increased risk amongst African Caribbean women that you can ‘bleed out’, so they may have to do an emergency hysterectomy. I had to sign the consent forms to say I would allow this to happen if there was a complication.”
After a long recovery, Taylor has since had no further problems but urges other women to learn from her experience. She said: “Push for that blood test and ultrasound as that is the only thing that will show you’ve got fibroids. “For nearly three years I kept going to see my GP but was ignored. If the fibroids had been diagnosed earlier I could have had other treatment options but because they had grown so big I had no choice. “In the end I was very lucky but it could have been so much worse. Not everyone will be as lucky as I am.”
For more information about fibroids, visit www.fibroidsconnect.com, www.britishfibroidtrust.org.uk or www.nhs.uk
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 Original article: http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/fibroids-nearly-killed-me
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