UAE: Painful periods, extreme fatigue; resident with over 60 fibroids shares harrowing experience

Kenyan expat Catherine Wambui Mwangi underwent a complex surgery that lasted eight hours

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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Kenyan expat Catherine Wambui Mwangi (right) with Dr. Caroline Alphine Jenitha. Photos: Supplied
Kenyan expat Catherine Wambui Mwangi (right) with Dr. Caroline Alphine Jenitha. Photos: Supplied

Published: Thu 25 Jan 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jan 2024, 4:18 PM

When Kenyan expat Catherine Wambui Mwangi was due for her medical test for visa renewal, she decided to go for a quick check-up at the local clinic. “I had fever and I felt extreme fatigue,” she recalled. “I didn’t want to get rejected so I thought I would go get myself checked.” The 42-year-old also struggled with painful periods. “Since I am a chef, I am constantly on my feet,” she said. “During the days of my periods, it would be especially hard for me.”

When she approached a clinic, the doctors there were shocked to learn that Catherine had a hemoglobin level of 4 g/DL. A hemoglobin level below 7g/DL is considered critical and could cause other organs to shut down. On further examination, the doctors learnt that Catherine had more than 60 fibroids inside her uterus.

A predominantly non-cancerous tumour that grows in and around a woman’s womb, fibroids can cause many issues including extreme discomfort, painful periods, heavy blood loss and difficulty in conceiving among women. They can have anywhere between a single to multiple fibroids before they start causing health issues. Depending on their position, size and how they affect women, fibroids are treated.

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Catherine consulted several doctors who all said the same thing — her uterus had to be removed because there were way too many fibroids. “I have never given birth and I hoped to start a family,” she said. “I was scared this was the end of my dream.”

Relief

Finally, she was referred to Aster Mankhool, where she saw Dr. Caroline Alphine Jenitha, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology. All her worries were allayed when she met Dr. Caroline. “Her first words to me were that she wants to try and save my uterus,” Catherine recalled. “I immediately trusted her. I had wanted a doctor who would understand my worries.”

However, before they could operate on her, she had to undergo three months of treatment including iron injections to increase the levels of her hemoglobin. Once she was well enough, the surgery was scheduled. “It was supposed to be a two-hour surgery,” said Catherine. “But by the time I woke up, it was all dark and I was told that the whole procedure had lasted eight hours.

Dr. Caroline removed a total of 64 fibroids from Catherine’s womb, the largest of which is 68mm. “Almost her entire uterus was taken up by the fibroids,” she said. “It was almost impossible to make out from the scan reports how many she had because they were all merged into each other. I have encountered people with 20 or 25 fibroids but 64 was very unexpected.”

A message

For Catherine, this experience was a wakeup call. “When I got my periods after the surgery, I was surprised,” she said. “There was no pain and the bleeding was manageable. It made me realise how much women just take their health for granted. I never thought to get myself checked or consult a doctor. I just assumed that period pain was normal and went about with life. I was extremely lucky that despite such critically low haemoglobin, I didn’t face any life-threatening complications. I want to send a message out to all women to get themselves checked regularly.”

Dr. Caroline also advised women not to be scared to approach medics. “They should never ignore period irregularities,” she said. “Many women are scared that if they go for fibroid removal, they will have to remove their uterus. With so many new medical technologies available, there are many options to women.”

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