Ah the Press…Hysterectomy Article and My Reply

I’ve been working with the media for about twenty years now. I can honestly count the number of times on two hands that a medial source has tickled me with the way they’ve written article about me.

Today The San Diego Union-Tribune published an article on the front page of the paper in regards to my hysterectomy journey. Let’s say I can still count on two hands. In case you are coming in late, I am the first woman in San Diego to undergo a single-site incision hysterectomy using daVinci Robotic surgery.

Here is a link to the UT San Diego article (click). I will scan and place a photo of the article when the hubs brings home a newspaper for me later.

And here is my reply sent to the newspaper this afternoon. I think it says it all:

Dear Madam or Sir:

I am the patient written about in the recent article “Hysterectomy via navel gains traction”.

First things first. Let’s make one thing very clear: My periods were debilitating. It went far beyond “painful” as described by the author.  I would never imply nor would I endorse a woman having her uterus removed because of “painful cramps”.

Second, Dr. Levy – I am your proof. I’d ask why the OB-GYN Congress and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) are asking women to resign ourselves to antiquated practices because they’re “cheaper”.  Just over a year ago ACOG published this piece as part of an overall statement:

At a time when there is a demand for more fiscal responsibility and transparency in health care, the use of expensive medical technology should be questioned when less-costly alternatives provide equal or better patient outcomes. 

I would tell the ACOG my responsibility is to myself and my health. As patient who has spent almost thirty years searching for answers, I can almost guarantee you, I will now be saving much more than the $3500 delta between a vaginal and belly-button hysterectomy by not having to continue to search for answers that were not coming. It is insulting as a woman and a patient to be told it’s better because it’s cheaper. I am fortunate to have excellent health insurance. That is what it is there for and I used it for its purpose.

Furthermore, let’s not lump all women into one group.  Women like me who want to keep their cervix and who have not had children may not prefer to undergo such a procedure as a vaginal hysterectomy.

Intangibles such as a small belly button scar vs. four/five scars or a large scar and the risks that come with vaginal hysterectomy are not addressed in the article. Additionally to be out of the hospital a day later, pain-free two days later, back to work two weeks later and back to my life sooner– how can one put a price on that?

Ironically (or perhaps not so ironically), you published a statement from UCSD – while a fine institution, seemingly not one that wants to empower its patients with all options. This is the very example of resistance I met through my journey. A pat on the shoulder and a “Well, you’re just an unlucky one, here’s a painkiller or we can cut you wide open,” were my answers. This is why we must do our research and seek second and third opinions.

I am confident my long-term outcome will be outstanding.  So to Ms. Carr and Dr. Levy, I repeat: I am your proof and it is thanks pioneers like Dr. Garg who advocate and think outside of the perennial “medical” box for their patients.

Heather J Wilson
San Diego, CA