Patient Perspectives

Interview conducted by: Rebecca Le, Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine
Special thanks to Dr. Janice Newsome, Emory University School of Medicine

Patient perspectives is a series of interviews conducted by medical student members of the patient and family centered care committee of the SIR medical student council. The goal of these interviews is to inform the reader of patient’s experiences as they undergo various IR procedures. We hope that these interviews shed light on the effects that IR physicians and the procedures they perform can have on patient’s lives. We also hope that they answer the questions that some patients and patient’s families may have regarding a potential IR procedure. All personal health information has been removed from the below interview to ensure the anonymity of the interviewed patient.

What procedure did you have done?
Uterine Fibroid Embolization.

Had you ever been treated by an interventional radiologist before?
No I have not.

How did you end up with the interventional radiologist?
I had spoken with my gynecologist about my heavy periods. We had tried other options, like IUDs and birth control, but nothing seemed to work. My gynecologist told me about the UFE as an option to help me fix my issue with heavy bleeding, which had resulted in me having iron deficiency anemia.

What is your understanding of what an interventional radiologist does?
Honestly, they help change lives for the better. LOL [*laughs out loud*]! That’s all I can say.

How did this change from before your procedure to after?
I was nervous about the procedure. However, I was very comfortable with the way I was walked through step by step regarding what would transpire to help me get better.

How did your medical condition impact your quality of life prior to the procedure?
I was weak all the time. I lived in the bed. I could only get up go to work, would struggle through my day at work, and come home to bed. I slept all the time. When I would have my menstrual cycles I dreaded them coming. I would have to purchase two boxes of pads, and it got to the point where tampons did not work anymore. [… The heavy duty tampons would fill up in 30 minutes.] I was literally “bleeding to death”. I was unable to interact with my son and friends. I would cancel many extracurricular activities because of my lack of energy. I would bleed out of my clothes often and get up embarrassed in the bed and even in the car in my husband’s presence.

Prior to your procedure, did your doctor give you an explanation of the procedure in a manner that was easy to understand?
Yes. It was very clear and I had time to go home to think through before I would agree to it.

Did you have any concerns going into your procedure?
I was just concerned about the anesthesia. I knew that in the past I had problems with waking up properly after using it and wanted to make sure I would be okay.

What was it like being in the IR suite as a patient?
I was comfortable. The team was very pleasant and seemed very happy to be caring for me.

What was recovery like?
Before we did the procedure, the doctors were upfront about the pain I could experience after the procedure, and I definitely experienced it! At the hospital all was well. Leaving, I felt a little pain and was wondering where this pain that I was told about by the doctor would come to me. I live about seven minutes from the hospital. As I sat in the car when my husband was pulling into the parking lot I began to feel excruciating pain and had the urge to vomit. He couldn’t even park the car before I opened the door as it was moving and began to vomit. I then struggled getting out of the car. I cried and could barely walk as he and my mother helped me along the way on my right and left side. I made it to my bed and my husband departed to get the prescribed medication. My mother provided me with a bucket beside my bed that she would monitor.

The day of the procedure I was in so much pain I felt like I could hardly breathe. I cried and prayed for it to go away. Every five minutes I was vomiting. I could not eat or drink anything.

The day after the procedure I still struggled in pain, so I stayed in the bed. Besides a quick shower and using the restroom I remained in bed. I still could not eat or drink anything. I started the medication regimen, however I still could barely walk.

The pain got better around day 3. I could walk around the house a bit. I attempted to eat a little food though it was really tough. I then noticed I had a constipation problem, another complication the doctors mentioned could happen. I waited this day out to see if I would eventually have a bowel elimination. The pain then shifted to rectal and lower abdominal pain.

Day four the desire to have an elimination became great so my mother reached out to the doctor to find out what I could use to help me. The pain had subsided by then; my main issue was the constipation. I was not fond of the medication, but I continued to take it until the day that I was not supposed to take it. Once I was able to have the bowel elimination I was then okay and began to feel much better.

By the seventh day of recovery I felt like I was ready to go back to my normal day to day operations in life. Recovery was not easy, but the whole process was necessary.

Did you follow up with your interventional radiologist after the procedure?
Yes.

For how long did you follow-up with your interventional radiologist? How many times did you see them?
I had about three follow up appointments including a follow up MRI to see the state of the uterine fibroids post the procedure. The appointments were over a course of about eight months.

Was the patient-physician relationship different than what you are used to? If so, how?
Yes it was. Honestly, it felt like family. I was very glad to have allowed this team to help me change my life. I have never felt this close to a medical team. They always seemed so happy to see me and was very engaging. I never felt like I was just another patient.

Are you happy with the care you received from your interventional radiologist? Is there anything you wish went differently?
Yes, very happy!

How did your quality of life change as a result of the procedure?
It took a few months for me to get fully back to feeling normal again. My menstrual cycles changed immediately. I can now use regular size tampons and regular pads. It’s like it was when I was a teenager again. I have energy. I am not sleeping all the time anymore and am no longer embarrassed when I have my menstrual cycle. I pack a small bag of items needed now for my periods, and the pain I would experience has subsided tremendously. I do not have the fibroid pain I once had, and I hope it never returns.

Do you have any other thoughts about your experience?
I am just very grateful that I was able to have this procedure. It has changed my life for the better. I feel healthier and I am no longer afraid that the issue will never be resolved.

The SIR medical student council would like to thank the above patient for her time and for sharing her experience.