It seemed like a strange request.
Maggie Jensen, 67, hooted and laughed as she remembered that moment.
During a pelvic exam, her doctor handed her a mirror and asked her to take a look.
“I saw a big bulge in the mirror,” Jensen said. “My bladder had fallen out.
Jensen had developed a disease called pelvic organ prolapse.
Some organs fall through the pelvic wall, causing a bulge around the vaginal area. The bladder can fall out, or the uterus and rectum, or all three.
It happened seven years ago when the Fruitport, Mich. Resident was 60 years old.
She was playing golf with her husband, Jerry, when she first noticed him.
“I said to Jerry on the golf course, ‘Something’s really wrong,’ Jensen said. “But my doctor just told me to stop drinking coffee, take Tylenol for the inflammation, drink lots of water and maybe we should talk about a pessary.”
A pessary, Jensen’s doctor explained, is shaped like a ring and is inserted much like a diaphragm. It helps maintain the pelvic organs.
Since she felt no pain from the prolapse, Jensen shrugged.
“You get used to things,” she said.
The years have passed.
The bulge seemed to get a little bigger.
Gradually, Jensen felt that other things were wrong. She had trouble going to the bathroom in the morning.
“So I took fiber,” she said.
“A little bell”
Jensen had never been the sedentary type.
Fit and well-trimmed, she enjoyed playing golf with her husband. She loved to swim and hike. When the cold hit Michigan, she and Jerry traveled south to Florida or Arizona and remained active there.
Meanwhile, the bulge got bigger and annoyed her a bit more.
Back in Michigan, she returned to see another doctor, who convinced her to have a pessary installed.
“We’ve tried all kinds of pessary sizes,” Jensen said.
None of them would work.
Upon further examination, Jensen’s doctor realized that the ligaments in his pelvic area had been damaged.
“I had two sons,” Jensen said. “I had forceps deliveries for my first son… and I guess the ligaments were damaged then. There was nothing to hold the pessary in place.
Next option? Mesh.
The vaginal net is an option for repairing prolapse by using it to help replace sagging organs.
“I really had to think about it,” Jensen shook his head. “I’ll admit it. The surgery scared me.
A few more years have passed.
“Weird, how you get used to things,” Jensen said. “It’s not like you’re feeling sick, you know?” Just uncomfortable at times. Like I had to go to the bathroom all the time, but I didn’t really.
Eventually, the annoyance got too much.
Jensen resolved to make this appointment for the surgery.
“It was like a little bell was ringing in my head,” Jensen said. “I went on the web, searched and found a female surgeon with good grades.
“I found Dr Leary at Spectrum Health. Maybe having a female surgeon would make me feel better about this kind of surgery.
Quality of life
“I have to say that Maggie had a very advanced prolapse,” said Dr. Leary. “But it’s not uncommon for women to give up on these kinds of things when the problem slowly develops over time. Women learn to endure it.
“They don’t realize how good they can feel until the problem is resolved.”
One in seven women will need prolapse surgery, said Dr Leary.
“There are many reasons women develop prolapse, but childbirth is by far the biggest risk factor. Think of the vagina as a nylon, ”she said. “When a woman gives birth, it leaves a few extra traces in the nylon, weakening the material.
“For someone active like Maggie, the prolapse affected the quality of their life more and more over time, until it began to make it difficult to walk or sit.”
Women can take preventative measures, such as daily Kegel exercises that strengthen the pelvic muscles. This is something Maggie now does on a daily basis.
“Imagine trying to stop yourself from passing gas through a crowded room. You squeeze to hold it and pull up, ”Dr. Leary said. “Start by squeezing for three to five seconds, relax for the same time, then repeat.
“Work up to doing 10 reps for 10 seconds up to three times a day,” she said. “If you’re having a hard time finding those muscles or you’re not sure if you’re doing Kegels the right way, we have an amazing physiotherapy team who can help you learn how to do them the right way.”
Over time, symptoms of prolapse may improve or go away altogether, she said.
Dr Leary discussed surgical options with Jensen.
One type of surgery can shrink or close the vagina to support the pelvic organs.
“Colpocleisis is a type of obliterating and least invasive surgery, ”said Dr. Leary. “The surgery permanently closes the vagina, sewing the front and back walls of the vagina together to shorten the canal and prevent bulging. It is an outpatient procedure that takes less time in the operating room than reconstructive surgery while having the highest success rate of all procedures performed for pelvic prolapse.
The other type of surgery is reconstructive.
Reconstructive surgery can be done either through the vagina or through small incisions in the abdomen. This often includes removing the uterus and returning other organs to their original position and supporting them either with the patient’s own tissue or with mesh implants.
This surgery is also performed on an outpatient basis, requiring three to four hours.
This time, Jensen didn’t hesitate.
Once she made up her mind about what surgery she wanted, she agreed to schedule surgery in a few days.
“Dr. Leary and his team made me feel so comfortable that all my fears were allayed,” she said. “I felt respected and reassured. I was finally ready.
She was operated on in December 2020 at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.
“For me, I had to use a catheter for a day after the procedure, but that’s it,” Jensen said. “It was the happiest day of my life when I could use the bathroom without any discomfort or face a bulge.”
Jensen is already back on the golf course enjoying the game.
“Dr. Leary was right,” she said. “I didn’t realize how good I could feel until it was done.”