Little Did She Know, Her Life Was About To Change Forever.

She could remember it like it was yesterday... She was at work when the abdominal pain and nausea started. She assumed this was from a little food poisoning. She tried to work through it, however, the abdominal pain and nausea continued to get worse as the afternoon progressed. Just prior to the end of her shift, the pain and nausea progressed to a point where she just couldn't take it. Little did she know, her life was about to change forever. Specialties Ob/Gyn Article

Little Did She Know, Her Life Was About To Change Forever.

She received approval from her boss to leave work early. She didn't feel well enough to drive, so one of her co-workers gave her a ride home. During the ride, the abdominal pain and waves of nausea continued to grow in intensity. As her co-worker chattered away during the drive, her mind drifted to the appointment she just had with her OB/GYN approximately two weeks prior as that visit was unsettling.

She had gone in for what seemed like the hundredth time to complain of continuing issues around severe dysmenorrhea and menorrhagia. She mentioned this all to her GYN and stated that she thought that these issues may point to endometriosis as she had a close family member who previously had been diagnosed with endometriosis by another MD. That family member was unable to have children and was forced to have a hysterectomy due to various complications from endo. As she relayed her fear regarding this to her GYN, she reminded him she was newly married and was concerned that she wouldn't be able to have children. He continued assuring her that she was "fine", "everything was normal". Her GYN told her she'd just have to deal with these symptoms as these were part of "being female".

She wasn't exactly satisfied with the answers he provided and didn't truly feel she was being heard. However, she hadn't even thought of going to another OB/GYN for a 2nd opinion, as she just didn't have the confidence to question his medical expertise. This MD was a senior physician in his practice and had an excellent reputation in the community regarding his experience and knowledge in the field.

As she was thinking about her prior GYN visit, a wave of severe pain suddenly snapped her back to reality. When her co-worker pulled into her driveway, things started to take a turn for the worst. While her co-worker was assisting her into her house, all of a sudden she felt an intense, sharp pain in her lower abdomen that made her scream out...The pain could only be described as a sharp, tearing sensation on her right side. When it happened, she doubled-over and screamed out from the excruciating pain. Suddenly, she had an overwhelming feeling that she was going to die and prayed to God for help.

As her husband wasn't home from work yet, her co-worker quickly dialed 911 then called her husband to let him know what was going on. The ambulance crew arrived quickly and transported her to the hospital emergency room. When the ER MD arrived at the patient's bedside in the emergency room, he could tell she was in severe distress. The MD reviewed her history and followed standard patient assessment protocols along with ordering labs, a pregnancy test, and an ultrasound scan to check for an ectopic pregnancy.

Her husband was sitting next to her when the MD came back to discuss her results. The patient was diagnosed with peritonitis which she was informed was due to a ruptured appendix. She was told she needed emergency surgery to clean out the infection in her abdomen and remove her ruptured appendix. She then met with a general surgeon who reviewed her surgery plan. She was reassured that this type of surgery was a very easy, routine surgery and would leave just a very small scar.

When she woke up from surgery she was still very groggy. While she rubbed her eyes and tried to focus, she stifled the need to cough because the pain in her abdomen was excruciating. As she started moaning, the floor nurse assigned to her assisted her with her PCA pump. The patient felt on her abdomen and was surprised that she had quite a bit of bandaging covering her entire lower abdomen. She asked the nurse about the bandaging. The nurse didn't say much other than that her MD would be in shortly.

The patient suddenly got a sinking feeling. Something didn't seem quite right. The nurse gently patted her arm and suggested she squeeze the "tummy" pillow that had been placed on her stomach to assist with the abdominal pain during coughing spasms. She was also reminded to use her "breathing toy" as well.

As the patient struggled to maneuver herself in bed, she noticed her husband dozing in a chair in her hospital room. Suddenly, a physician she didn't recognize waltzed into her room. She had no idea whom this MD was, as he wasn't the general surgeon or the ER MD she previously met. She was in the middle of wondering what was going on when this MD introduced himself as a "specialist". She noticed the department listed on his lab coat was embroidered "GYN Oncology".

The specialist greeted her husband as if they had previously met, so she was a little confused. When she looked at her husband, she could tell he was trying to remain calm, but the look on his face scared her. Just as she was wondering what was going on, the specialist informed her that he was called in after her surgeon opened her up in the operating room. He then told her that there were some "complications" that came to light during her surgery for her ruptured appendix and corresponding peritonitis.

As the specialist spoke, she looked at her husband who gently held her hand while he stood at the bedside. Her husband never cried, but she could see that his eyes were moist, as if he was going to start tearing up. In addition to a ruptured appendix and peritonitis, the "complications" uncovered in surgery turned out to be stage II high-grade ovarian cancer. After the general surgeon initially opened her up to remove her appendix and clean up the peritonitis, he realized she had oc. The GYN oncologist was called in to validate the ovarian cancer, which was confirmed via pathology. The GYN oncologist had spoken with her husband in the middle of her surgery to explain the surgical complications, her additional diagnosis, and the proposed treatment plan. A total abdominal hysterectomy was performed with a recommendation she also have chemotherapy.

The patient was in total shock as this was a lot of information to take in. As the GYN oncologist reviewed the findings, he mentioned she should consider herself "lucky" that the oc was found at this stage, which he stated only happened by chance because her appendix ruptured. The patient wasn't sure if this was supposed to make her feel better or scare her...At that particular moment, she was just confused and numb. She had multiple questions...How could this have been missed? Why didn't her GYN listen to her when she saw him? Was it her fault? Was it his fault? How could this happen to her and her husband? If this had been caught earlier, would she still have lost her ability to have children? Was she going to die after all?

As she sat in her hospital bed with these thoughts and questions swirling through her head, she hadn't even noticed that the GYN Oncologist had left her room and her floor nurse was at her bedside.The nurse gently touched her hand and said, "I'm really sorry. I know this must be very difficult for you and quite a shock to you and your husband. My aunt had ovarian cancer as well. She's doing fine now, but I understand how challenging receiving this sort of diagnosis can be. My aunt spoke with a psychologist following her diagnosis, which really helped." The nurse squeezed her hand gently and continued, "I'm here if you need to talk." Her husband thanked the nurse. The patient was silent, but then finally broke down in tears.

The patient was finally discharged from the hospital and successfully completed her chemo. She was eventually deemed "cancer-free". As a result of her experience, she made the decision to go back to school with the goal of becoming a nurse. She felt it was important to let go of her sadness and anger and to utilize her challenging personal experiences in a positive helping patients realize there is a light at the end of the tunnel, in addition to working closely with physicians to facilitate opportunities where they may realize that it's important to pro-actively listen to their patients instead of dismissing them.

If you have an interest in women's health issues and would be interested in participating in a brief on-line PhD student research survey that is focused on clinician decision-making specific to embryo disposition discussions with patients, please go to my survey thread here on This PhD research is titled: Factors affecting clinician decision-making in IV.


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Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.

Thank you for this very poignant article.

Although the situation was a very sad one for this young lady, I am sure she has been able to use this experience in a very positive way and is now an excellent nurse who provides very competent and compassionate care for her patients.

Thank God that she decided to become a nurse. May she be blessed with many more years.

Wonderfully written article, yet, how unfortunate for this young woman. I am sure she will use this experience to become a great patient advocate.

Thank you for sharing this story. I think we can all take a lesson away from it.

I love this, thank you!

I totally get it. It's do hard to fight the fear sometimes and challenge authority. But the people in charge and on top are people too. They are not all knowing and do make mistakes. I think they forget that sometimes and we as the patient or people "below" them forget that too. It's frustrating but we each know our own body better than anyone else. Despite what the powers that be say you have to (literally in your case) go with your gut when you feel something is really wrong. It's you that has everything to lose.

Powerful story and beautifully written.

Specializes in Oncology.

I have no words, just tears. I recognize the scene. Best wishes.

This is such a sad, yet hopeful story. She will be a wonderful nurse and patient advocate. God bless!

So powerful.. Thank you for sharing.

please tell me she sued the one who had missed it. My precious mother's was missed, despite all the visits to her male GYN, her male internist, and her male Gastroenterologist. God lesson to all of us to never be afraid or too lazy to get a 2nd, 3rd, even 4th opinion.

So sorry this happened to you.