When I try to target the source of my anger, I'm instantly taken back to the days leading up to my second salpingectomy (the operation to remove my 2nd fallopian tube). I had already had to have my first fallopian tube removed just 7 months prior. And so, I was thrown into panic when I realised I was pregnant again with another ectopic. Having been there before, I immediately recognised all the symptoms and had already diagnosed myself before any tests or scans were even carried out.
I presented my self-diagnosis to the doctors and nurses at the Early Pregnancy Unit, but of course, as before, I knew that a diagnosis could not be 100% substantiated until bloods were taken over several days in order to establish a pattern. And, as before, a scan could not be accepted as concrete proof of an unviable pregnancy until my hormone levels had reached a certain level, by which time the Methotrexate injection was unlikely to perform successfully. Methotrexate is a powerful drug that is used to try and dissolve the embryo so as to prevent the necessity of surgical intervention. However, if it is not administered in very early stages, it usually fails to work effectively. I felt utterly trapped and exasperated and given the fact that I never had a chance to savour a single moment of this pregnancy, I felt emotionally numb towards the little embryo that was burrowed inside me – somewhere! But who was I kidding? I was of course tormented by the prospect of having to endure another miscarriage.
We had no choice but to lay low and take the ride. Several days ensued of hormonal analysis and internal scans, ultimately leading me back within the confines of the Gynaecology Unit awaiting the results of another Methotrexate injection following the unsurprising discovery of an ectopic pregnancy in my right fallopian tube. The result of this Methotrexate was everything. If it had been successful, my hormone levels would have decreased or at the very least reached a plateau. But if, like last time, it had failed to work, my hormone levels would have increased, signifying that the pregnancy was still on going and the only choice would be surgery.
I remember in the course of this waiting period, one doctor in particular – a young, Australian bloke who went to great lengths drawing us diagrams to explain the surgical procedure he would perform (if required)…whereby only half or part of the tube would be removed. He seemed to take great pleasure in flaunting the skills required to carry out this tricky but entirely do-able piece of surgical craftsmanship. And then, he concluded by saying, that if all else fails, we would be wonderful candidates for IVF once my damaged tubes were out of the way. I was shocked and incensed by his ability to casually talk about assisted reproductive treatment as if we were discussing a handy short-cut through the park as opposed to the destruction of my natural fertility!
I felt sick with fear as we waited for the doctors to come and tell me my fate. Eventually, they arrived to inform us (to our utter surprise) that my hormone levels had indeed plateaued. I was safe. This time I’d thankfully managed to escape the knife and my fertility was preserved. We were immensely relieved. The whole experience had really taken its toll on us so we planned a little trip to Ireland to visit my family. My hormone levels continued to slowly decrease and so the doctors were happy to discharge me and our failing embryo.
While in Ireland, I started to experience quite severe, sharp pains in my right side. The pain was intermittent so I managed to just ignore it, reassuring myself that it was probably just the side-effects of the drug at work. Upon our return home though, we decided to get it checked out at the hospital, more as a precaution than as a genuine concern. Following another internal scan, we were told that in fact a large mass was present in my upper right fallopian tube and that emergency surgery would be the only option now. We were so shocked and confused. The Methotrexate had worked. How could this happen? How could the embryo continue to grow when the blood results reflected otherwise?
I didn't even have a day to compute the facts and the inevitable consequences of the impending operation. Before surgery, we were visited by the surgeon who told us that she would do her best to preserve at least part of the remaining tube. As I drifted into unconsciousness, these words provided me with my one last thread of hope that my fertility might be saved. I awoke alone in recovery, breathing through a mask, parched for water and morphined to the eyeballs. Within minutes, the surgeon appeared and proceeded to inform me in a somewhat robotic manner that my second fallopian tube had been fully removed and that, judging by the photographic images (which she thrust in front of my bleary eyes), my ovaries and uterus were in fine condition. That was it! There was no “I'm so sorry….We did everything we could….”, nor even the compassion of a gentle touch. Her words were brief and her delivery was brutal. For a few hours, I had the blissful fogginess of morphine to subdue the mental torture that was there, lurking and ready to descend upon me at any moment. But as the morphine wore off, the reality of what had just happened threw me into utter turmoil.