By Caroline Young | email@example.com
It was the only time in my life I actually thought I wanted to die. I crawled from the bottom bunk in my tiny Georgetown dorm I was sharing with another girl for two months last summer. I grabbed my cell phone and dialed the one person I call when I do not know what to do – my mother.
She told me to call 911. Being the hard-headed female who tries to be strong in all situations, I said No. “I will wait this out,” I thought, “This will go away.”
It didn’t. Against my stubborn wishes, my mom called the paramedics and they rushed me to the hospital.
The pain in my uterus was beyond excruciating. It felt like a ferocious animal was ripping my female organs to shreds with its fangs.
This was not cramps. This was a feeling that literally made me want to jump out of my skin. I did not want to be inside of my body.
Once they wheeled me into the tiny ER room, the pain was amplified and I was screaming at the top of my lungs.
“Why is this happening to me?!” I just kept crying and yelling.
I turned over to look at two of my four suite mates who had terrified looks on their faces.
“My God,” I thought. “These girls have known me for barely a month, and here I am screaming louder than I can ever remember.”
But they stayed. They demanded answers from the doctors. They left to get their books to study and came back to be with me. They kept telling me I would be okay, even though I didn’t believe them, and I’m not sure they believed themselves.
No one could tell me what was wrong. They gave me a pregnancy test. Not pregnant. They just kept saying they didn’t know.
And I just kept screaming for more pain-killers.
Then, my cousin walked in. Allie was in town for Fourth of July and spent three or four hours in the ER with me that day. She squeezed my hand as they wheeled me into the X-Ray room and stuck a rod inside of me so they could see into my uterus.
She tried to make me laugh and actually succeeded once or twice, in between my relentless screeches and curse words.
Eventually, the doctors were able to tell me what was wrong. I had an ovarian torsion. Basically, my right ovary had been twisted, or “torsed” and its blood supply was cutting off, fast. They weren’t sure if they could save it, or if the ovary was already dead. All they knew is I needed surgery. Right away.
Fear seeped into my bones and thoughts flooded my mind: “What if something goes terribly wrong? “What if I can’t have babies one day? What if I have ovarian cancer?”
At the time, my boyfriend and I had been dating for only a few months, and I always thought the guy should always say, “I love you” for the first time. But at that moment, my traditions went out the window, and I had to tell him before the doctors took me into surgery. So, I did. I told them I must talk to him and one lent me his own cell phone. I told Louie I loved him for the first time, and he told me he loved me back.
Once they gave me drugs to put me to sleep, everything in my vision became drenched in a sort of shimmery white light. I was under for more than two hours.
I woke up in the hospital room groggy. I was coming down from the major dosage of Morphine they pumped into my bloodstream. A nurse told me the surgery went as well as it could have, but I was scared. The room was bleak and frigidly cold. I felt distraught and alone.
But then my brother called me around 4 o’clock in the morning. He sounded scared out of his mind because I am his little sister, and no matter how much we fight, I know he would never want anything bad to happen to me.
He was the first of several people to remind me that I am not alone, and I never will be, no matter how scary life can be.
Then my mom called and told me she was flying in the next day. I asked her why and she said, “Well, Caroline, because you need me right now, don’t you?”
I instantly realized how silly my question was. Of course I needed her. I absolutely needed her.
Before she arrived, my room flooded with phone calls, gifts and flowers.
Sequoia, a sassy, sharp girl with whom I interned, was the first to come that morning around 7 a.m. She woke up early to come see me, and I knew that was not easy for her.
Next Elissa and Emily, the two roommates from the night before spilled in with all of my favorite snacks, my journal and my book. Like Sequoia, they woke up early before they started the daily D.C. commute, to come see me.
Kate, another cousin, who was working in the city came to tell me how much she loved me and give me the book she was reading. She didn’t seem to care she hadn’t finished it. She wanted to give me everything out of her bag, even her Lean Cuisine, which I am pretty sure she packed for her lunch that day.
The biggest surprise came from my boss from my internship at the CQ Press. He called my hospital room and sounded genuinely concerned, and told me to take as much time I needed to feel better. It put me at ease because I was worrying already about being absent from my internship. He and the other writers from the CQ Press sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a card. I couldn’t believe how hospitable they were, especially after I had only known them for such a short time.
Once my mother got there, I felt in good hands. She rescued me from the grim hospital room and took me to a hotel a few blocks away. For about five days, she cared for me like I was a child again. I was still on all sorts of pain-killers to help me recover from the surgery.
Twice a day, we walked down the street in the suffocating summer heat to eat, and I would nearly immediately have to get back in bed to sleep. I hated that because I usually always like to be doing something at least mildly productive. Looking back, it was like I was halfway in a coma.
But every time I opened my eyes, my mother was there with a smile on her face. She reminded me that I am not Superwoman. I was devastated when the doctor told me I couldn’t run for a while, and she was there to help me get over that and realize how important it was for me to take care of myself, first and foremost.
My mom thinks I had the torsion because I was doing too much. Everyday, I woke up at 6 a.m. to run, I took the bus to work by 8 and had classes at night. She thinks my body was responding to my crazy D.C. lifestyle. Maybe.
I personally think it had nothing to do with stress. I believe I am one of the women who struggle with female reproductive organ issues throughout their lives.
Studies show ovarian torsions to be the fifth most common gynecologic surgical emergency, according to Web MD. And I was actually lucky because most women usually lose the torsed ovary and I was able to keep mine. The ovary salvage is below 10 percent. If my mom hadn’t called for me when she did, the doctor said the ovary would have definitely died.
Web MD also reports more than half of torsions result in tumors, making me incredibly fortunate.
I had a bout years ago in high school with a ruptured ovarian cyst. It took me out of school for a week but it was not as severe as the torsion and didn’t require surgery. And I am aware something similar could very well happen again in my lifetime.
Despite the reason for my torsion, I learned to never lose site of what truly matters in life. I arrived in D.C. that June with many fears, but none of them had to do with health issues, let alone needing emergency surgery. I came for an internship, to take classes, to expand my mind and to explore the city.
I did all of those things, but I also learned something I believe is much more important than any job or schooling can teach us. People I barely knew came out of the woodwork to let me know they cared for me. And those I have known since I spoke my first words went above and beyond their call of duty to reinforce their unconditional love for me.
I learned love and compassion expound from people, sometimes from those who are nearly strangers to us. I learned the universe always supplies us with abundant support, especially in times of dire need when we cannot care for ourselves. I learned we are never truly alone, no matter what.