A Manitoba woman who needs surgery says she's afraid to get it because a previous surgical mishap changed her life and left her without trust for the health care system.

Jacqueline Johnson had a tubal ligation at Winnipeg's Seven Oaks Hospital in 2008 to prevent getting pregnant again. She had previously suffered a series of miscarriages.

It was day surgery, and Johnson returned to her home to Bowsman in western Manitoba the next day.

But during the operation, Johnson’s bowel was inadvertently punctured — something she didn’t realize until after she went home.

"They stole my life away from me," Johnson, 44, told CBC News in an interview.

Following the surgery, Johnson was in severe pain, so she sought help at the Swan River hospital emergency room near her home, unaware that her bowel was punctured and waste was leaking inside her body.

"I went into the hospital and told them that my stomach was burning. It was on fire," Johnson said.

'Why would this happen to me?' — Jacqueline Johnson

But after blood work, the hospital sent her home with some new antibiotics.

A couple of days later, the pain continued and the surgical incision from the operation in Winnipeg was leaking.

Johnson was rushed back to the hospital in Swan River where the skin over her stomach split open.

"I broke open from the top part of my stomach to the pit of my stomach. It was completely wide open … before I knew it I was on a stretcher and they were pumping me with morphine," Johnson explained. 

She was then taken to the Health Sciences Centre by ambulance for emergency care.

"The only thing I could say was, 'Why me? Why did this happen to me?' I didn't do anything wrong. Why would this happen to me?" she said.

When Johnson woke up from the emergency surgery she was equipped with an ostomy bag that hangs from her stomach, which to this day collects her body waste.

Johnson says she relies on her sister to help take care of her and empty the bag on a regular basis.

No more trust

Johnson says she's never been the same since. She says she was hospitalized in Winnipeg again six months later with more complications.

Now, five years after the tubal ligation surgery, Johnson says she’s scheduled to have further operations.

But she’s not sure if she can trust the health care system.

"It would be nice for an apology saying I'm sorry for what happened to you and that, but I don’t know if an apology would help," said Johnson, adding she thinks a formal apology should come from the doctor.

She says she still experiences pain from the complications.

"I wish they would own up to their mistakes," she said.

Told about risks

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority declined an interview request, but a spokesperson said in a statement "a tear or nick of a bowel during abdominal surgery is a recognized risk of the procedure and was explained to the patient as part of the process to obtain informed consent."

The WRHA says Johnson signed a form acknowledging she was told about the risks.

Further, the WRHA statement adds there were no complications evident during the surgery.

The WRHA goes on to say that after Johnson was rushed to Winnipeg from Swan River she experienced no delays in getting emergency care.

After CBC News inquired about Johnson’s case, the WRHA spokesperson indicated she "told Ms. Johnson we were sorry that her surgery did not have the best possible outcome because that is what our health care professionals always hope for and strive to achieve."

The Swan River hospital is part of the Prairie Mountain Health Region, formerly Parkland Regional Health Authority.

Prairie Mountain has not yet responded to requests for comment on the case.

CBC News is in the process of obtaining Johnson’s medical files to help answer some of the outstanding questions.

Johnson has never filed a lawsuit arising from her care.

Another Manitoba woman, Kim Bernshine, told CBC News in October of her botched surgery, which also happened at a Winnipeg hospital and resulted in her experiencing kidney failure and other health complications.