UCLA & My Bladder Sling Removal Surgery
Prior to surgery; On Monday October 8th 2012 my daughter Kim and I flew from Texas to UCLA in Los Angeles California. We left early to drop our little dog off at a vet’s for boarding and then drove almost two hours to Houston Intercontinental Airport. Our flight had a lay over in Salt Lake City and there were no delays so we arrived after 6 pm Los Angeles time. Kim had reserved a room in a hotel close by the airport and we picked up a rental car from Fox Budget rental and headed to rest for the night. Because you can never rely that there won’t be a flight delay we dare not risk having missing the tests and the surgery being cancelled. So we had an extra day before tests on Wednesday, so Kim thought it would be nice to drive me around the beach front areas on Tuesday before the 3 pm check in time at the Tiverton Hotel. Walking is a problem for me but I really enjoyed the drive to various beach front towns and it got my mind off the upcoming surgery. We stopped at a nice seafood restaurant for lunch but we were both tired and were happy when the time came to check into the hotel and have a good rest.
I was meeting several women at the hotel who I had made contact with because of my blog. Two were having their first consults with Dr. Raz the next day, a lady from Kentucky and another from Canada. So we had promised to meet in the lobby lounge around 6 pm. I went down a little early so that I could make myself a cup of tea and wait for their arrival. I never had photos of either woman but I knew one had her daughter with her and the lady from Canada her husband. The latter couple were the first to arrive and it was hugs and introductions all around. She told me her consult with Dr. Raz went well that day and they had set her surgery for December 5th. This is because she has mortgaged her house in Canada to pay for her surgery because in Canada like other countries, only partial sling removals are done and the women are still ill and their lives go further downhill. Her husband was on board to do this because he loved his wife and wanted the woman he once knew back in his life without living in constant pain.
The other lady with her daughter soon joined us and then we all sat talking about what this mesh implant had done to our lives. It was if the flood gates opened for these women and they finally had a way to share with others who totally understood. We all reluctantly parted at 9 pm, because for me the next day was a day of testing before my surgery and I needed to rest.
Being on Houston time made it hard because we are two hours behind California, so Kim and I were in bed by 10 pm and up at 6. am. After I got up the next morning, I went up to make tea while Kim slowly came to. I sat with my tea talking to two ladies who asked to join me at my table. People go to UCLA from all over the world so we were soon asking each other why we were there. The daughter of the woman was there to have a surgery that was nothing like mine and the mother asked me about mine. I soon began discussing with her what mesh had done to women around the world and she looked shocked. She said she had seen the ads about adverse affects on the TV and did not know how bad it was. She had planned on having this surgery herself until she heard my story and that of another lady who overheard from the next table. She introduced herself and told me she too was there to have mesh removal. Soon another lady with her husband arrived and I joined them because we had been talking on the phone. She too was there for her first consult. We all planned to meet that evening and go out to dinner together.
I left the ladies early enough because had to be at Dr. Raz’s office at 11.am for a day of tests. You can read all about those tests here. http://meshangels.com/2012/10/ucla-tests-before-mesh-removal-surgery At the end of the tests I went back to the hotel to rest before joining the ladies around 5.30 pm for dinner. I knew I could not have anything to eat after 8pm and I had eaten little all day so was looking forward to food and laughter with women who had been for their first consults or like me was having surgery the next morning. It was such an enjoyable evening and it got my mind off what was going to happen the next day. Ten of us had had dinner together, three women with the supportive husband’s and one other with her daughter the same way I was with mine. I can never thank these people enough for taking what could have been a stressful time and helping me through it with laughter and great conversation.
The day of surgery; We were up at the crack of dawn because we had to be there at 6.30 am. My daughter parked the car we had rented and we went up to the top floor of building 200 where Dr. Raz’s office is. It is the surgical floor where all these surgeries are done. We checked in and waited until they called my name. I had reached a point where I did not feel nervous at all. It was time to get this out of me. Two years and seven months had gone by and I was crippled by it. Constant leg and nerve pain. My life as I knew it had stopped and changed to a pattern of how to get through the day as best as I could. I was ready to have this gone and hopeful I could feel better one day.
Everyone on the surgical ward was really nice and cheerful. They introduced themselves and told me what part they would play in my surgery. Dr. Raz was soon by me explaining what he would do to help me. He was very comforting and I appreciated it. Questions were being repeatedly asked about my drug allergies. Everyone making sure that something would not happen to me during this critical time. I remember little after this and know it was because of the medication.
Waking up; I do remember waking up in a lot of pain and hearing voices. What I did not know was that they were giving me doses of pain killers in five minute intervals until it was under control. My daughter later told me she was horrified when I came to and she could see how much pain I was in. They explained to her that they could not medicate me quickly because it would be too dangerous. As hard as it was on both me and Kim, I am grateful because I have had many drug related reactions and by doing it slowly, they made sure I was okay. I am sure it must be hard for any person who is with you, but it does pass and they did an excellent job of helping me until I no longer felt any pain.
My day nurse introduced herself to Kim and I and she came into my room constantly to see how my pain was and if I needed anything. Although Dr. Raz does these surgeries one after another, he made rounds to check on us several times during the day after it was all over. He is constantly in a good mood and is gentle and caring. I managed to have a few conversations with him and told him how much I appreciated his help with all the women I send there. I also asked him if these slings were causing problem with men too and he said he had seen it happen. He told me that UCLA no longer uses any mesh slings and now they offer sling surgery the way they used to. I was so grateful to hear this because of all the suffering I hear every day.
Although they offered me food earlier, I did not feel hungry until late afternoon so I asked for something. I was offered sandwiches but asked could I have some fruit and perhaps some cheese to go with it. I was told of course but they had to order it from the hospital and it would be awhile. I had no problem with that. Later a tray showed up full of every kind of fruit, a cheese and nut plate and a custard desert. I was really hungry by then and at heartily. My daughter I knew was tired from a long day of stress so I told her she needed to go back to the hotel and get some sleep. It had been one long day.
After she left a night nurse came in to introduce herself. I did not feel tired at all and around ten at night I accepted a sleeping pill so that I would sleep normally and not want to sleep all day the next day. I believe the anesthesia knocked me out so well, I got a good deep sleep for a couple of hours and was later wide awake. I finally fell asleep but was awake again around three in the morning. It was not much later when the nurse came in to remove the packing before Dr. Raz came to make his early morning rounds. The packing is used to stop hemorrhage after this surgery and is like a long, dense gauze stuff that keeps us from bleeding too much. Soon Dr. Raz was asking me how I was doing and I knew I was doing well. This man amazes me because his demeanor is always calm and caring. He makes you feel that your world is about to change. That you will be so much better. Check out time is around 7 am in the morning. My daughter was there to pick me up and everything went quickly and a wheelchair was in my room. It was time to leave.
I can say my whole experience with Dr. Raz and his nurses was wonderful. What could have been a difficult experience was made to be as good as possible. I hope yours will be too.
From the time I left the hospital and went back to my hotel room I never needed any pain meds although my daughter had filled the prescription. I took Ibuprofen for the swelling discomfort for a couple of days, but I can’t describe it as real pain. Or at least the real I had felt before this surgery. What I realized at the hotel room that I could actually raise my right leg up without the shooting nerve pain. I was amazed. The hardest part for me was getting on and off the bed. I knew I had to because laying in bed continuously can cause blood clots, so I persevered and made a wander around the room about every two hours. I have an incision about four inches across my pelvic bone area which was to remove the mesh that was entwined in my nerves and muscles. The arms/anchors were also removed. That meant rising up off the bed was a bit painful but nothing terrible. I am writing this two weeks later and the incision has healed well and I no longer have problems raising up in bed. Not all women have this. Most removals are done through the vagina. Everything is case by case.
Our aftercare is up to us and you have to be diligent in your own. Don’t overdo things, but do try to move enough and eat properly. Once in the hotel room I knew I needed to think about a bowel movement later. The first surgery I ever had in my life was the one where this sling was put in me. I called my doctor three days later and told her I was having problems. Only then did she tell me about a stool softener. UCLA asked me before surgery if I had any with me, if not they would provide me with it. I did have it because I had learned the hard way. So at the hotel the morning I got back from surgery, I ate a small meal and took chelated magnesium, probiotics and the stool softener. Later that day I had no problem. I was never once constipated since this surgery which is a good thing. You do not need to strain.
Even to me it seems impossible that my life of agonizing nerve pain is over. I still have issues and I hope time will help me heal some of it. I do know from other women that whatever damage is done before removal surgery cannot always be fixed. Only time will heal us and the acceptance that many of us will never be 100% the same again. Most women tell me they feel 80% of the person they were before their sling was put into them. Some I am afraid their damage was so bad that their percentage is much lower. I have to wait awhile before I can tell you my own percentage. It has only been two weeks and I have more healing to do. I wish you an easier life and a better future. I hope one day you will feel a whole lot better and your sling will be completely out of you too.
You may wonder what it was like to travel home to Houston from California after this surgery. You can read all about it here. http://meshangels.com/2012/10/mesh-removal-ucla-travelling-home/