The decade of 40 is one where family stands out.
I admit, I arrived at 40 unexpectedly.
In my early 40s I was introduced to being a caregiver for my grandma who is twice my age. It wasn't that she needed me as much as perhaps I needed her. She worked full-time well into her 80s. She drove her own car.
Time with my grandma has always been time well spent. It is sort of nostalgic. We would bond over pedicures and I would be amazed that her toes were MY toes, only double the tenure. She would tell me stories about our family, including the one about Pretty Boy Floyd.
Then one morning, it all changed.
She called me and I could tell something was wrong. Her voice was higher pitched than normal. There was an echo in the background which immediately had me asking, "Grandma, where are you?"
"I am in the bathroom at work." She was working full-time in girl's apparel at Wal-Mart.
"What's going on?" I inquired.
"My insides are coming out!" she exclaimed.
"Like you have bad diarrhea?"
"No. I have to keep poking my insides back up inside me."
"Um. I'm pretty sure that's NOT supposed to happen. I'll come get you to go to the doctor." I said, trying to keep my voice even.
"No. I can't miss work." This had always been my grandmother's work ethic.
"But you just said your insides are coming out! This probably warrants missing some work. Don't you think?"
"Okay. Well? I'm going to call your doctor and tell him what's going on and make an appointment. If he says you have to come in today, you'll have to leave work."
I called the doctor and are scheduled for the next day. She will be seeing the OB-GYN that delivered my one of my children.
At the appointment, we're told Grandma has experienced vaginal prolapse. I have never heard of this, but when I'm told by the nurse "it's common", I can barely hold it together!
For those of you who don't know about vaginal prolapse:
A vaginal prolapse is a condition in which structures such as the uterus, rectum, bladder, urethra, small bowel, or the vagina itself may begin to prolapse, or fall out of their normal positions. Without medical treatment or surgery, these structures may eventually prolapse farther and farther into the vagina or even through the vaginal opening if their supports weaken enough.
Approximately 30%-40% of women develop some presentation of vaginal prolapse in their lifetime, usually following menopause, childbirth, or a hysterectomy.
Most women who develop this condition are older than 40 years of age.
Grandma was being seen by the doctor and I was hyperventilating at the nurse's station about this diagnosis--not for Grandma. Heavens, No! I was hyperventilating because I was young and never heard this could happen to a body--MY body!
There's not a whole lot of education out there being shoved at us to explore. It took my grandma's demise to make me aware that my "insides" could fall out.
I curse my mother sometimes, thinking she should be here taking care of grandma, but then I'd have another 20 years before I learn anything about my body and age.
I hadn't dropped Grandma off at her house more than an hour ago. My phone beeped while I was on the phone with my mom, hysterical that this could happen to me--I sorta ran the part about it happening to her mother by her with words the speed of lightening.
It was Grandma.
I had to shove my own fear aside; after all, it HAD happened to Grandma.
Initially, Grandma was treated with a Pessary, a small silicone device, that looks like a "donut". It is used to push the "female parts" back up into her and filled the void where they were falling. I had browsed the information they gave to Grandma while I waited for her to get dressed after her appointment.
I answered, "Hello?" and crazy unleashed itself.
"It keeps coming out!" There was panic in her voice.
"The donut; I went to the bathroom and it keeps coming out, my insides too!"
I called the doctor's office and was told Grandma should be able to insert it herself. It was designed to take out, wash and reinsert.
I called Grandma back and explained it to her. She assured me it could not be done.
"Grandma, if I have to, I will help you put it back in, but, really?!"
There was a really heavy pause. It was deafening as each of us was thinking about me having to reinsert the donut.
I drew air and answer, "I think we should go back to the doctor." It was all I could think of to say!
The donut wasn't a good solution for her, though it is for some, and Grandma eventually opted for surgery.
Unfortunately, women don't talk about their bodies like this. On our visit back to have the donut reinserted, I asked a lot of questions.
I was told that Kegel Exercises can help make those walls and vaginal muscles stronger.
Anyone who has been pregnant knows that Kegels are simple muscle contractions that strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Not only are the great for preparing our body for childbirth, they also help us maintain bladder control.
Grandma is doing great and I still contend that I am far too young to know insides coming out are a real thing!