June 16, 2021
Terri Patino, 64, was tired of suffering in silence. For almost a year, she’d been dealing with the effects of pelvic organ prolapse, a condition where the muscles in the pelvis can no longer support the pelvic organs. Despite doing pelvic floor physical therapy, her symptoms were worsening.
“I felt heaviness and pressure, so much that I had trouble walking. I couldn’t even walk around with my grandchild at Disney World,” says Terri. “It affected every part of my life. I couldn’t exercise, I couldn’t walk. It feels like your insides are coming out. I had to do something.”
The newly retired mother of two and grandmother from Freehold, New Jersey, wanted to be fully present in her family’s lives. When her daughter’s gynecologist suggested she contact urogynecologist Nina Bhatia, M.D., who practices at Riverview Medical Center, Terri decided it was time to take action.
Plan of Care
Pelvic organ prolapse is a common condition in women, though some women may not have any symptoms. Symptoms include:
- A feeling of pressure or a bulge in your vaginal or pelvic area, which can make it uncomfortable to sit or walk
- Vaginal dryness
- Problems with your bowels
- Urinary incontinence
- Lower back pain
- Pain during sex
There are a number of options available to treat prolapse:
- Physical therapy
- Pessaries (prosthetic devices that are inserted into the vagina to support its structure)
- Surgical procedures
“I spend a lot of time talking to patients about their symptoms and what’s bothering them that they would like corrected, and we go over the different options to determine the best plan of care,” says Dr. Bhatia. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all sort of situation when it comes to prolapse.”
Terri had an extensive prolapse—stage three out of four—and wanted a solution that would last. At first she was scared of surgery, but after discussing it with Dr. Bhatia, she decided it was her best option. “Dr. Bhatia was very calming and understanding. She explained all my options to me, and I felt very comfortable with her to do the surgery,” Terri says.
Minimally Invasive Approach
Surgery was scheduled for April 2020, but it was postponed when elective surgeries were pushed back due to the rise of COVID-19. “To me, it wasn’t elective because I couldn’t even walk and I was also having some bleeding,” says Terri, who was disappointed with the delay. But telehealth video calls with Dr. Bhatia during the wait helped her stay strong. She also had a pessary temporarily inserted, which helped to manage her discomfort while she waited.
In June 2020, the day of surgery arrived. Dr. Bhatia performed a robotic-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) and sacrocolpopexy (surgery to correct uterine prolapse and stabilize the pelvic tissues and organs of women), and placed a bladder sling (a procedure to restore bladder control).
The minimally invasive nature of the surgery means patients can recover quite quickly. “The pain wasn’t that bad at all. I rested at first, but it really was a lot easier than what I thought it would be,” Terri says.
Best of all was that her pain and discomfort from the prolapse was completely gone. “Before it felt like there was always something between my legs, and it was uncomfortable to even sit. But after the surgery, I immediately felt that everything was back to where it’s supposed to be, and I felt fantastic,” she says.
Dr. Bhatia, who follows patients for a year after surgery, is also pleased with Terri’s outcome. “A lot of her motivation to fix the prolapse was to be physically active with her grandchildren and to be there for her daughters,” says Dr. Bhatia. “She’s doing great, and she can get back to her family.”
To other women suffering from pelvic organ prolapse, Terri would like to encourage them to speak up and talk to their doctor. “A lot of women don’t know about it or don’t talk about it. When I opened up to people, I found other women who also have it but are suffering through it because they don’t want to talk about it or they’re scared,” says Terri. “I was scared, too. But surgery was the best thing I ever did.”
Dr. Bhatia echoes Terri’s sentiment. “I think it’s important for women to know that while it is a common condition, it’s not something they have to live with. We can treat it, and we have so many different options for doing so,” she says.
By speaking up and taking charge of her health, Terri is now enjoying retirement with her family and hopes to travel once the pandemic is over. “I can do everything I want to do now. I help my children, I watch my grandchildren, I exercise,” says Terri. “I feel normal again.”
Next Steps & Resources:
- Meet our source: Nina Bhatia, M.D. To make an appointment with Dr. Bhatia or another doctor near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
- Learn more about urogynecology services at Hackensack Meridian Health
- 5 women’s health signs you should not ignore
- 6 ways to treat bladder leakage
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.