The day endometriosis nearly killed me…

I woke up with the most excruciating pain and large volume, sudden onset vomiting. The time was probably a little before midnight as I staggered to my parents’ bedroom to let mum know I wasn’t feeling all too well. As mum is a sympathetic vomiter, i.e vomits when she sees anyone else’s vomit, she kindly advised me to try and small sips of water and she would try to get the floors clean. I had to sit in the lounge room, covered with a little blanket as I tried to deduce what could have made me so violently unwell. I recalled the day well. I had been to school and been home without anything eventful. Dinner was a non-event either and the following day was another school day. Every small sip of water or milk seemed to increase the pain in my tummy and before long I was vomiting again. Mum, although not a doctor, diagnosed a simple case of gastro and told me to try and sleep it off.
After a lot more vomits, the spilled contents gradually changed from food to bilious green and eventually coffee grounds colour with flecks of blood. Only on seeing the blood did mum think it wasn’t’ “gala” (gastrointestinal imbalance) and thought best we presented to the hospital. By now it had been a few hours of ongoing vomiting with me feeling completely weak and unable to walk. We quickly drove to Gaborone Private hospital, as I cried in the back seat, urging her to drive through red lights as the pain was most excruciating. On arrival, almost passing out from the pain, I was immediately sent off for surgery to manage a bleeding peptic ulcer. I remember telling the doctor in charge how much I loved him for the morphine and anti-vomiting medication he had administered.
I was 15 years old at the time and used to having severe debilitating period pains that would often make me miss a few days of school each month. I had had my period the day prior to being unwell, and not trying to miss school again, had inadvertently taken an overdose of ibuprofen to manage the pain and had caused myself to have a bleeding ulcer. My mum and I thought that severe period pains were “normal” aspect of being female and even on post-op follow up with my GP I was informed that having excruciating period pains was an accepted part of being a female.
It wasn’t until being a medical student and having ongoing issues that I was eventually diagnosed with endometriosis. On reflection, I was able to realise that I had suffered and almost died from self-medication of this condition without ever having a diagnosis. I was made to feel that, like labour pains, there is a lot of discomfort that comes with being a female when in fact this is very far from “normal”.
Let my lived experience act as a cautionary tale that not all period pain is created the same. So educate yourself about the condition, there is plenty of information on reputable medical sites and present to your doctor if you have any suspicions that you might have this condition. Like Emma the yellow wiggle let those of us who are 1in 10 illustrate that endometriosis can be managed to some extent and, although it has no cure, it doesn’t have to define who you are.
Other sites to look up

Things I wish patients knew…


So there are many things that patients probably want doctors to know about being patients. The good thing is that as doctors, we should ideally all have our own family physicians and therefore we should be patients at some point in our lives. This thus means all doctors have been patients at some point but unfortunately not all patients will be doctors. So I thought I would provide some insight into the world as a family physician and some things I thought would be great to know…

  1. Trust me when I say, there is usually a very good reason why doctors run late- emergencies come up, breaking bad news, counselling a suicidal patient, managing complicated medical issues which can be compounded by complex family dynamics, you get the drift. I promise I am not sitting and twiddling my fingers in the consulting room and just giving you a “therapeutic wait” so you can decide whether you still want to see me or not. I would also want to get home on time and for once not have my son be the last one for pick up at childcare but I am here, addressing your medical issues so please don’t be angry at me because I cannot call all those patients who incrementally got me to this stage of late and get them to apologise directly to you.
  2. In the same token as point 1, I would appreciate if you could call in advance when running late and even better if you are unable to attend your scheduled appointment so that I can better serve the other patients who were unable to get an appointment time with me on the day.
  3. When you take your clothes off, you don’t need to apologise for whatever it is you feel like you need to apologise for- eg not shaving, being sweaty, being fat etc. Unless these are part of your medical illness, I am not really concerned about them. Females are the worst especially when having pap-smears when really all I am assessing are vulval medical conditions and the appearance of the cervix for example. Your legs not being shaved is not even something I look at.
  4. Antibiotics are not required for all ailments and no your viral upper respiratory chest infection that is dry but chesty will not be gone by this weekend if I gave you Augmentin duo forte or any other really strong antibiotic you desire. Allow me to take a comprehensive history, examine you and then determine what treatment you need and understand that sometimes good old rest, chicken soup, Panadol might be all you need.
  5. Asking to be bulk-billed at the end of a long consult when not on a health care card and having been told at the time of booking the consult about the fees of the consult is the same as going to a fine dining restaurant, eating a degustation course and then when the bill is presented going on to ask for a 50% discount. I don’t like making a big deal about finances especially when I have patients waiting but I hope you understand that halving my income doesn’t mean I only pay 50% for my groceries, mortgage or everything else that my family and I need. If you are not keen to pay out of pocket for medical consultation, in Australia the good thing is that there are strict bulk billing clinics that happily provide that service. I am happy to provide that service if it is agreed and understood from the beginning of the consult.
  6. If your child has a fever or pain, giving them paracetamol and having their fever or pain settle won’t make me not believe that they had it to begin with. Having a grizzly child with a fever or pain that has been going on for hours or even overnight just so the doctor can see how high their fever is or how uncomfortable they are amounts to cruelty in my eyes. Just tell me that you gave them some pain relief and I will still take a history, examine them and take it from there.
  7. In the same token as *6, telling me you have 10/10 pain and you have not had any pain relief and you were playing on your phone when I walked into the waiting room makes me question whether you understand the pain score to begin with. If I say 10/10 is being burnt alive, you are saying you are being burnt alive and choosing to still be playing on your phone and not take any pain relief which doesn’t make any sense to me. Also, don’t tell me about your pain threshold- I just need you to score your pain out of 10.
  8. Doctors are human too and sometimes they get sick and have to have time off work. Sometimes they have to attend to family emergencies such as sick children and have to take carers leave etc. They also need to have time for holidays and this should not be laced with guilt. Doctors who attend to patients when they personally are sick or who can’t even have time off to do other life things run the risk of burnout. This can eventually lead one to stop practicing medicine altogether. So appreciate it if your doctor does take the time to attend to do these things as it illustrates that they are indeed only human after all.

These are the few that I can remember at the time of writing this list. I am sure there are many more and a whole lot more patients would like their doctors to know. Feel free to comment below if you have anything to add

*Comments and opinions above are mine and don’t reflect the opinion of any medical clinic or college I may be affiliated with

*Image sourced from Google