The following post is a true story. It’s personal, sad, scary, gross, and very much TMI. I know that. And I’m letting you know that now in case you want to click that little ‘X’ at the top of the screen. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Also, it’s long because I am wordy as hell. It also drops an F bomb. I think that covers all necessary disclaimers.
I don’t know how to tell you what happened to me last Saturday. I still haven’t really processed it. I think I’d have to go back and tell you that I was pregnant with a corona-baby this Spring. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. All that social distancing clearly didn’t work for me and Ben. Ha. Ha. Ha. But I’d also have to tell you that I lost that baby the week my brother and three nephews were nearly killed in a catastrophic car accident. I didn’t grieve this miscarriage like I had my previous loss. Probably because I felt so grateful that all four of my beloved family members made it through that awful accident alive. Kind of like, maybe you only get so many miracles, and if the one I got was that my brother didn’t die, then “Okay, God. I understand.” I didn’t tell a lot of people about it and probably wouldn’t now, but we think something started with that loss. Something wrong and sinister that could have killed me Saturday night.
Saturday, I was working at the busy urgent care I have been lucky enough to call “home” these last few months. I had worked my 12-hour shift. It was steady, and I had felt sluggish all day. Not terrible, just foggy and like I was moving too slow. It was frustrating to me. I had seen the last couple of patients, charted on them and was getting ready to leave. I stood up, and instantly felt a rush of urine down my leg. Look- I’m a mom of two. I’m no stranger to snissing (when you sneeze and pee a little) but this was not that. It was like a full-on pee, and I couldn’t stop it. I raced awkwardly to the bathroom, and quickly sat on the toilet. My underwear was shiny with blood. I looked past my legs into the now blackened-with-blood toilet bowl.
It’s not the most eloquent of words, but that’s all I could manage. It was blood, not urine rushing out of me. I knew I wasn’t pregnant, and I wasn’t on my period. I didn’t recall feeling a stabbing pain that might signify a ruptured cyst or something. All these thoughts flooded my mind as I stuffed toilet paper in my underwear and bolted out of the door to my car. I called my sister (an MD), but I didn’t get through to her. I called my mom who is also a nurse, “Mom, something bad is happening, I’m bleeding like crazy out of nowhere.” “Go to the ER!” I’m not stupid and I knew I didn’t have a ton of time, but I figured I had some time before I blacked out from blood loss, so I started driving home ASAP. I called Ben and he told me to meet him at the nearest ER. I did. But when I got to the parking lot, I didn’t want to go in. I knew it wasn’t the best ER for me to go to since this was a female/uterine issue, even if it was the closest. I also noticed the bleeding had pretty much stopped. I got out of my car, into the car with Ben and told him to take me home to clean up. I didn’t know if I would start feeling woozy, and I didn’t want to be behind the wheel any longer. Ben was resistant to leaving, but I assured him I was okay. And I was. I got home and I cleaned up in the shower. I wasn’t bleeding much at all, but I knew that this was not normal, so I called the nurse line for my OBGYN. The NP told me that since I wasn’t pregnant, to put my feet up and relax. If I was pregnant, I would need to report the Assessment Center and be seen. I knew I wasn’t pregnant. Like obviously, it wasn’t impossible, but it was *biologically improbable*. Anyway, I was on the work schedule for the next day, and I told Ben I needed to go get my car from the ED. I told him to grab a towel (a dark one, please. I hadn’t lost my mind completely) for me to put on the car seat where it looked like Sweeney Todd had taken up business. We get close to the emergency room parking lot when suddenly it happened again. Except I could tell it was much worse this time. To be completely honest will require me to be very graphic, and I will be. So you should just exit now if you can’t handle that …..
I’m giving you space to exit stage left right now….
I’m going to tell you what I was wearing. I was wearing a post-partum sized pad because that’s all I had at the house from my miscarriage, black leggings, and a t shirt. Have you even seen a child with a blow out diaper? Where the poop comes up the back of the diaper and the front and spills over onto their clothes while seeping out of the legs? No? Lucky bastard. Because that’s exactly what happened instantly except it was blood. It was over and through the pad, over the top of my leggings, down my back, filling up the seat, and splashing onto the floorboards.
Ben: “Oh shit, Beka.”
Me: “Yeah, it’s bad. Take me to Woman’s now.”
Ben was amazing. He handed me the dark towel, and I tried to staunch the blood flow, but it was pretty damn useless. He tried to keep me occupied on the drive and keep me calm. When we got to Woman’s Hospital, he grabbed a wheelchair and I hobbled into it where I was quickly wheeled back into triage. I told them everything that happened, but like any healthcare professional, they’d seen stuff. They listened to my story but were calm and unfrazzled. That is, until they saw blood gushing in mass volumes. Things moved freaking quick then. I got moved into a room filled with people. A doctor, a NP, multiple nurses, and aids. They were asking me if I was pregnant or on my cycle or had a history of heavy bleeding. No, no, no. “Look, I’m really a boring person” which is a complete lie considering the weird shit that happens to me, but I felt like it *could* be true and wanted to reiterate that this was nowhere near normal for me. I then endured the most painful pelvic exam of my life while simultaneously getting an IV and blood drawn. It wasn’t the doctor’s fault; it was just painful because she could not find the source of the bleeding–just a lot of clots and a lot of blood. She estimated 300mL of blood loss during the exam alone. This doctor is a black woman who talks to you like she’s your mama or auntie. She chastised, comforted, and took care of me in 3 sentences. “You are coming in here disrupting the peace, bleeding like crazy. I’m gonna figure this out. You are in the right place.” Bless her. They let Ben in and told him it was serious. My blood test came back negative for pregnancy somewhere around here. This let them know that they needed to take the other pathway for possible diagnosis. They took me for an ultrasound across the hall. Toward the end of the ultrasound the tech asked me, “Have you had surgery recently? Have you had any bowel, bladder changes?” No and no. And I knew then that she had seen something. Because you don’t ask those questions without reason. I was brought back into the room with my *angel* of a nurse Kim. A new doctor came in. She said, “I hear you are a nurse practitioner. I can’t really describe what I’m seeing but I’m going to draw it for you, okay? This is your uterus…and here is an ill-defined, highly vascular mass. It’s very large, and is taking up most of the room in your uterus. You’re not pregnant and I don’t think it’s a molar cancer type thing because-“ “My hcg would have been elevated and it isn’t,” I interrupted. I continued, “So it’s a tumor?” “Well…we cannot rule that out at this time. The fact that it was not seen on ultrasounds you had in June has me concerned for how large it is now. That signifies rapid, rapid growth. I cannot take you for a D & C because I think you would hemorrhage again and end up with an emergent hysterectomy. Otherwise I would, so we could biopsy the mass. I think we need more imaging, and we need to admit you.” She said other things, but I don’t really remember. And she left. I remember the nurse looking at me because she knew that I knew this was really bad. She said, “I know you are religious,” as she touched my crucifix/miraculous medal combo necklace, “I will keep you close in my prayers. You did everything right in coming here. We are going to do everything we can to save your life, first, and to preserve your fertility, second.” I just cried. How the hell did I go from suturing a leg laceration on a little boy 1.5 hours ago to a probable cancer diagnosis? Ben just kept saying, “It’s going to be okay.” Like if he said it enough times it would actually be okay. As I left, the first doctor, the one like my mama, said, “Well, they are admitting you and you get a new doctor, but I’m gonna get that radiology report FIRST.” She made me feel safe. Like nothing could get to me if she was there. I got admitted to a new room with an incredibly sweet nurse named Carley who was really just the best. She was kind and gentle and gave me space to cry while completing all her tasks. We went through all the admission questions, and she asked me if I needed anything. I straight up asked for a Xanax, and she brought me one. Ben crawled into that hospital bed with me and just held me while I told him I did not want to die and made him promise that his next wife would be fatter and uglier than I am because I am obviously a very mature person who has her priorities in line. I then passed TFO because benzodiazepines are good for that. The next morning, it was Sunday. I talked to another doc who said that the radiologist read the ultrasound and did not feel it was *too* vascular for D&C, but that she wanted a CT scan first to get a better look. So, I was not allowed to eat and sent for CT. CT scans are quick and the contrast they shoot in your veins for a better picture is weird and warm and makes you feel like you’re peeing yourself, a sensation I will be super sensitive about for the rest of my life considering these recent events. I was taken back to my room. Anyway, after a while, that doc came back and said, “Well we know what it is, and it’s not cancer. It’s an arterio-venous malformation (AVM) in your uterus. It may have occurred from your recent miscarriage. We think we can fix it with a procedure they do in interventional radiology (IR) where they basically seal off each end of the artery. The bad news is you need to be transferred out of our hospital because we don’t have interventional radiology, yet.” She told me I could eat. Then, the IR doctor called and said we could do the procedure right away, as I was inhaling a chicken quesadilla. So, I told him I was eating, and he said we could NOT do it right away after all due to the quesadilla. We would do it the following day. Basically, they would catheterize me through my femoral artery like cardiac catheterization, except they would go into my uterus. They would locate the problematic artery and inject “particles” that would seal it up. I would feel shitty the next few days because of something called “post-embolization syndrome.” Whatever. I wasn’t worried about that. I was honestly just relieved at the news, and still in shock from everything that had happened.
The next day, Monday, I was transferred to the other hospital (yay for expensive ambulance rides…not). I was there by 9:30am after being NPO all night. They then told me I was scheduled for 3pm which just pissed me off. Really it did. I think all my anger at the situation was gathered up in a ball, and it basically burst into white-hot rage. I did not scream, I did not yell, remember I’m very mature—an adult. Instead, I did what annoys nurses more than anything. I rang the call bell every 20 minutes until the IR doctor came to speak with me. Then after he left, I did it in 30-minute intervals until they came to get me an hour earlier than scheduled. Probably to shut me up. I have exactly zero regrets. I was hella pissed and their scheduling was absolute bullshit. I was also starving, so there’s a chance I was just really hangry. I was not friendly or bubbly or anything similar to that when they finally did come to get me, but again, I’ve dealt with so many pissy patients over the years and I’d been through hell, so I really just didn’t care. Anyway, this part is boring. I got back to the fancy IR suite where they prepped me, drugged me, and then the doc did his thing. I was sedated, but I was also conscious, and I could absolutely tell when the artery was embolized because even though I was sedated, I immediately felt strong uterine cramps. I was like “The versed/fentanyl combo y’all gave me makes me care a teensy bit less, BUT that hurts like hell.” He said that the AVM was “very large” and that he had to embolize “both arteries” so I would probably hurt for a “bit”. I was like yeah, I’m hurting. So, he gave me dilaudid, and I went back on the ambulance and was returned to Woman’s Hospital for observation. I got to go home a few hours later, and that was good because my family had gathered. My mom, my sister Anna, and nieces and nephew were home and ready for me. I slept like utter shit that first night. Yes, they gave me pain medicine. No, it did not help one iota. Seriously. I’m sensitive to medications. Like if I take a Benadryl I am out for days, dude. But this pain really didn’t respond to the narcotics they gave me. I’ve only felt this type of pain once before and it was while I was in labor with Darcy. It sucked and was unrelenting cramping for hours. Remember earlier when I mentioned that thing called “post-embolization syndrome?” It’s characterized by nausea/vomiting, pain, and fever. It sucks a big one, I’ll tell ya. I’m now 3 days out and I’m finally having longer stretches where I feel okay, but still have periods of time where I cramp like a mother and feel sweaty/chilled. Hopefully that subsides soon. My mom and sister stayed for 2 days, unpacked my house (we just moved, by the way) and minded my children. I can’t say thank you enough to them. My mother in law brought food and transported children. My family members loved and checked in on me daily. They sent uber-eats cards, love, prayers, and I am so thankful to each of them. For my friends who are reading this like WTF? Why didn’t you tell me? Know that about 10 people know about this. It *just* happened, and it’s been hard for me to talk about. It’s obviously incredibly graphic and jarring and terrifying, and I have felt SO many emotions the last couple of days. So, why am I sharing this with the internet?
I want to share this in case you or a loved one are a weird, rare case like me. I also don’t want to have this same conversation with multiple people because it’s a lot, and it’s brought out a lot of big feelings. I cannot find a single written experience about uterine AVM that isn’t a medical journal. Maybe the stories are out there, and I just haven’t found it, but there isn’t enough information to appease me. I want to provide someone out there with this template of what happened to me. I want to be here and say that I survived it, and I understand how absolutely crazy the experience is. And no, I really don’t need sympathy. I don’t need attention—believe me there has been enough attention to ALL my private bits lately. FOR REAL. But I do hope that I can provide comfort to someone who may go through what I just did. That I can validate the experience as terrifying and painful, but offer them hope and healing, too.
I know everything is in turmoil. I mean, in this year alone, my brother and nephews were in an awful car accident, I had a miscarriage, my BIL had a heart attack, my uterus exploded and in the background of this personal stuff is a pandemic and disgusting election season. Y’all. I’m tired. I know you are, too. I know so many of you have your own burdens and pains. I just want to be a gentle reminder that things can happen in a millisecond. You can lose your life, your health, your family at any moment. You can lose it all. I’m thankful that I didn’t, and that I am okay, but if your priorities aren’t in order, you should work on it. It’s cliché, I know, but what you build in your day-to-day life is what you have when the world turns pear-shaped. I have my faith which provided immeasurable comfort during a terrifying time. I had no words for prayers, but I can say a rosary that I already memorized. I have a beautiful marriage with the love of my life. He was there every minute. Steadfast, patient, loving, and just. Just everything. Because we build that love in our marriage day in and day out. I have family that dropped everything and showed TF up. Because we have a group message that we talk in ALL THE TIME and throw stupid parties and take loud family vacations and all of the things. Y’all. Build. That. Shit. I absolutely loathe clichés and hearing about how awful 2020 is, but at this point I’m just gonna agree that it has really sucked a big one. And I hate to be all gloom and doom, but all the rare, life-altering crap can’t only happen to me. It might be your turn next. Your terrible situation may unfurl at any moment, so maybe instead of getting into pointless political debates, you just could call your mama. Or your brother, or your friend. Say you’re sorry if you should be. Maybe you send flowers to that person you’ve been thinking about. Maybe you stop and thank God above for the oxygen you breathe. Whatever it is, make it count for something. We are fragile, fragile creatures only here for a moment. Make it count ❤