I had heard, through various mesh support groups, about a surgeon who was kind and gentle and was anti mesh. When I rang to make an appointment I was told I would have to have a Transvaginal Ultrasound. As it had been seventeen years since my surgery and since the last time I was on the receiving end of any kind of intercourse I thought it a good idea.
The two times sex was forced upon me months after the surgery it was agony. I obviously was not ready and still had stitches etc. I also knew I had a huge ridge of tissue pressing on my rectum which had not healed yet or indeed diminished in size. After the two gifts from my then husband I never had intercourse, or any sort of affection from him for that matter, again. Brilliant.
So as I am now into almost my fifth year since I left him I thought maybe it would be a good idea to see what state my insides are in. Just in case I should meet someone who does not repulse me totally. And I also needed to know so that I do not lead anyone on or find they have expectations of a sex life that I cannot fulfil.
So the surgeon was very thorough. He took a detailed history of all my operations. He was training and working in the UK when I had my Hysterectomy and Burch Culposuspension in a private hospital in Bromley, Kent. We both racked our brains trying to remember the name of the surgeon. In the end I remembered who it wasn’t! Mr Tatford who had arranged my Tubal Ligation the previous year. It was the other Mr as they call surgeons in the UK. There were two to cover a vast area of Kent and South London.
I then toddled innocently into the examination and testing room. So uninformed about what was going to happen that I took my knickers off before he had left the room. Oh dear. Well he could not see anything as I had a dress on but still. I started off on the wrong note and it ended up like that too. The testing went on a very long time. Mostly because he found some incredible things wrong with me. So wrong that he went over and over them again and again. He took so long he lubed up the penis shaped probe at least one more time. Maybe more. In front of me once. It felt a bit weird watching him do that but I thought hey at least I know how much lube to use on a partner! Am all about the observations…it’s how my brain works. And I have never used lube before and my ex went in totally dry. Except for the blood of course. And the stitches. Ah the memories.
So he went back in again and talked me through what he saw again and again. Got me to cough so he could see if there was any stress incontinence etc. I actually got used to having the thing in my vagina for that long. Forgot it was there. The screens are highly addictive. Seeing what is inside you for the first time, what you really are like inside where nobody can actually see unless they cut you open. And I am beyond embarrassment, truly. I felt like a freak inside for so many years that I sort of came to terms with it. Or I thought I had.
He showed me the probe and said he had managed to get it in a certain distance but the scarring was horrendous. But he said that is not too bad is it, showing me this penis shaped probe that is a hell of a lot thinner than any penis I have had the pleasure of encountering. But it was about the length of a usual aroused penis. He managed to get about half in after about an hour of stretching and lubing up my remaining vaginal vault. I grimaced and said it might have been a long time but I did not remember any penis I had encountered being half the size of that probe.
He then started lubing up a paddle probe and as it looked like the one that goes on pregnant women’s tummies I pulled my dress up exposing my tummy. He said no we are doing it down below. First I had heard of it. He then ran this paddle over my labia up to near my anus and then a few times he rubbed it firmly over my clitoris. Which made me blink. Cause one of the main reasons that I went to see him was because of the scarring causing Spontaneous Orgasms. I was mortified that I was not prepared for that. Or told anything about it. And that he did not say one word when he was doing this.
Which brings me to the other thing. In the UK it is law that women must have chaperones when having invasive procedures such as this. It is not law yet in Australia and I was not offered one. I was not given any info beforehand about the procedure and certainly not about the Translabial test. I have since found out the office manager who is an RN is usually offered as chaperone. So maybe I am so old and repulsive that it was not deemed necessary? Cause who would want to molest me? Apart from several males in the past that is. Well, I truly do not know why I was not offered one. He knew I was a sexual assault survivor. That can make vaginal exams difficult. As can the horrid surgery I had.
I left to catch the first of three buses home but on the first bus I started crying. Unusual for me. Rarely cry for myself. Just quietly weeping. I texted my son who was meeting me at the large shopping centre and arranged to go to Jamaica Blue to wait for him. He said I was in shock. He could see it from a distance. He then said I was talking but it was like I was someone else. I was shaking and had started retching. We ordered coffee and banana bread and he put sugar in my coffee for shock. We talked. Or he listened. I had my phone out and I put up a post on Facebook. “Well that sucks”. And all my friends were worried.
I was retching so much we decided to get a taxi home. I was in the front seat and it was a bit like when I put my mum in care. I could not talk. Could not think. But had stopped crying by then. I managed to get some Omdansetron once we got home and my son put me to bed. With a cup of Irish Breakfast tea. The universal healer.
I had blurted out nearly everything to him in the coffee shop. So there was no need to talk. I was getting lots of messages from my friends. And I put a bit more info up on Facebook for my them, most of whom do not live nearby. They were terribly upset. After a rest I started to try to see the bright side, as I find I so often do. Joking about finding a guy with a really short penis. And other stuff in that vein. It was not til the day after that I told my son about the clitoris thing. He was quite upset as was his fiancé. I really did not know what to think. It could have been part of the test. I do not know because he did not explain the procedures to me.
Eventually I put up a post questioning if anyone had this done to them in the Sling The Mesh group on Facebook. Only one out of sixty or so who responded had. The next day I contacted the HCCC in Sydney. The officer took it straight to the Director. Apparently they view victims of previous assaults in a very special light. I was encouraged to make a complaint and the Director saw it as so serious that he said an email would be sufficient. I waited until my GP was back from holidays to ask her what to do about going back for the follow up appointment. I thought I had most of the results anyway from the feedback the surgeon provided as the scan went on. I was mistaken.
So to summarise my injuries
• Huge “deformity” on the Pudendal Canal also known as Alcock’s canal.
• Massive scarring on all organs
• Shortened vagina above that fused scarring. Not removable or fixable
• “Defect” on neck of bladder
• Anal Sphincter defect
• Rectum problematic
There was a lot more detail on the report to my GP. It was seven pages long. She was shocked and nearly crying. I comforted her. Told her I had confidence in her. The wonderfully strong female medical student came over and studied the scans. Horrific injuries we did not know I had at the time of my son’s birth, did not know until now.
It appears I ripped deep inside where the nurses etc could not see. It was a massive rip which was right on the Pudendal Nerve Canal. It showed up like a Hiroshima cloud on the scan. Massive deformity. Totally out of place on that X-ray. I had so much pain and leg weakness after the birth and I remember saying I think I broke my Coxyx. Something cracked, I remember that. It took months to be able to stand from a sitting position. I had to hoist myself up. Not easy with a newborn. I think that I either stood or lay down a lot.
The bladder was also damaged during the birth. We knew that but did know how much scarring there was. The surgery to repair that damage created the two Rectoceles which required the massive vaginal surgery in 2000. And no wonder that I nearly went mad with that. It would have been pressing right on the deformity on the Pudendal Canal. And it still hurts today.
After I saw the GP I went to have a coffee in our local shopping centre and felt really shell shocked again. I actually sat with my head in my hands. In public. Then I went to the loo, allowed myself two minutes of angry tears and then went back out to face the world. When I got home I filled my son in and wrote out a complaint by email to HCCC. The GP had said she would NEVER send any patient to the surgeon after the way he conducted the test. And she did not want me going back to him.
Although I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt I do feel that he needs educating on chaperones, instruction and explanation to patients before he performs intimate testing. He also wrote that “it was an awful lot for Kathleen to take in” so if he knew how shocked I was, how about getting someone to ring my son, or a taxi? A little humanity goes a long way to healing or ameliorating trauma. I certainly received it, from my son and beloved friends.