The story of an emergency ovarian torsion surgery in a foreign country

The title says it all and let me tell you, it was just as pleasant as it sounds.

I feel like this once ‘fashion blog’ turned into a medical update blog instead, but until I can get myself together again, I’ve accepted that it’s just the way things are going to be. When I’m not sick, I’m working and when I’m not working, I’m spending time with my family and savoring those moments that mean more to me now than ever. Or, let’s be honest, I’m napping.

Things have been a little rocky since my last surgery. I’ve had everything from ‘phantom cramps’ to emergency room visits for palpitations. My most recent emergency room visit was last Tuesday, May 26,  for severe abdominal pain. I was worried about not being able to go on this trip to Belize with John and our friend from Austin. After all, we had to postpone the initial trip we booked to Belize last September as I was in the hospital from the hysterectomy. I really didn’t want to have to reschedule it for a third time.

I was in the ER that the pain was caused by ovarian cysts on my little remaining ovary, but not to worry as they are harmless but can sometimes be painful as they push on nerves. I was assured by doctors that many woman have them and don’t even know it, so it’s not a big deal. They might hurt a little when they rupture, but that’s the extent of things. So cool, I could still travel to Belize and even if I did feel a little pain, it would be one of the cysts rupturing, no big deal.

Friday we took off early in the morning and made it to Belize City by lunch time and traveled the four hours to the village of Placencia in which we were staying in.

For a majority of the trip, I felt good. Sometimes I’d have twinges of pain, but nothing even worthy of mentioning to anyone. Fast forward to Monday night —  a  group of us went to dinner on the beach. It was gorgeous out and we enjoyed good conversation over a few drinks. I felt bloated but I figured it was because I went snorkeling the day before and maybe it irritated my insides. Apparently, it doesn’t take much. I wasn’t in any real pain, so I didn’t think too much into it.

Then things took a turn for the worst on Tuesday morning. Around 4 a.m., I woke up to severe pain on my left side again. I figured it must be that cyst rupturing so I’ll just deal with it, walk around and hope it goes away so I can enjoy breakfast and the rest of the day. The sun rises there about 5 a.m., so I walked about 1/2 mile to the beach and felt the pain becoming stronger. Again, I figured I’d tough it out and maybe worst case scenario, I’d eat a ‘light’ breakfast and take it easy that day. We had planned on going for a hike in the jungle and tubing down a river.

Fast forward a few hours and things are starting to intensify. I couldn’t stop vomiting. I was covered in sweat and had a hard time walking, sitting or standing due to pain, so I just paced around my friend’s store that had A/C. Things got fuzzy after that, but know I was escorted to the village clinic where the doctor looked at me, gave me some additional pain pills and told me to go straight to a hospital. I could have either gone to the hospital in Honduras or the one in Belize City. Our friend who is native to Belize suggested we take one of the small planes over to the hospital in Belize City and she’d call and let them know I was coming.

Again, I don’t remember much. I know I was literally convulsing from the pain —  that was after four narcotic pain pills and a muscle relaxer. I remembered to try and use the same breathing techniques used when I was in labor when having Myles. 56 hours of labor made me feel like an expert but never thought I’d have to do that again. This felt like labor, but worse.

I get to the hospital, apparently open my eyes for the first time in hours and make a mad dash to the emergency room. They had a room ready for me and hooked up an IV right away. I was extremely dehydrated, still vomiting and shaking uncontrollably. The morphine was supposed to be my saving grace and when that didn’t do anything for the pain, it sunk in that something is terribly wrong.

An ultrasound was performed not long after my arrival and the doctor came in shortly after reading it to let me know I needed to have emergency surgery. I had an ovarian torsion, high blood pressure, a rapid heart beat and an elevated white blood cell count. Poor John, his face just turned white. I do remember that much. I didn’t care what they did to me at that point as long as they could take the pain away.

An ovarian torsion refers to the rotation of the ovary and portion of the fallopian tube. It is a gynaecologcial emergency and requires urgent surgical intervention to prevent ovarian necrosis. In my situation, I was far beyond that stage. It was already enlarged 5x it’s normal size and had died– completely black. As scary as this is to write out, it was a matter of life or death.

I ended up with an incision right over my c-section scar from 2011; about 8 inches long. Luckily I had a wonderful doctor here in Belize who did a great job and saved my life. Now I’m just trying to recover so I can get  back to the States. It’s rough being in another country with just your husband, who’s beside himself once again. We’re just eager to get home.

If you really want to see what an ovarian torsion looks like, here’s a picture my doctor snapped during surgery.

 WARNING: It’s not for the faint or squeamish and yes, it’s a photo of my insides. [Click here to view]

A random side note:  I apologize to all my close friends who I sent graphic photos to without warning via Facebook Messenger. It was the morphine, I swear!

So how did this happen?

Aside from me jokingly calling myself a medical enigma, I read that patients who have undergone previous pelvic surgeries, especially tubal ligation, tend to have adhesions to surrounding tissue predisposing the ovary to twist around it resulting in torsion. [source] After having two surgeries last year with the first being an ablation and tubal ligation before the big surgery, I could see this as a reason. Diseases such as ovarian cysts or fibromas, and trauma to either the ovaries or the tubes will also cause ovarian torsion. I’ve encountered all of that as well, so I guess I was doomed without warning. 

The story of an emergency ovarian torsion surgery in a foreign country

Right now I’m just trying to sustain from taking pain medication so they’ll discharge me. I’m lucky to have borrowed my husband’s shorts because I can jack them up so they’re over my incision.  It’s my third night in the hospital and we’re both eager to get back to Cincinnati. I can only handle so many walks to the front of the building, counting lizards and excessive poking and prodding.

Anyone reading this have a similar situation? Do you do weird things like send grotesque photos to the ones you love dearly under the influence of pain meds?

Find me on Twitter: @meganfenno

Belize Medical Associates - Emergency Surgery on Vacation

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