Sudbury woman suffering with endometriosis pain, now dealing with extended surgery wait

A Sudbury woman is feeling deeply frustrated after surgery for chronic endometriosis pain has been put on hold, yet again.

'I'm just hoping that maybe by 2023 there'll be a little bit of hope for everyone,' Harmony Shultz says

Harmony Schultz has been waiting for a hysterectomy for nearly a year, and this week northern Ontario hospitals were told to ramp down non-urgent surgeries, including hers. (Harmony Schultz/Submitted)

A Sudbury woman is feeling deeply frustrated after surgery for chronic endometriosis pain has been put on hold, yet again.

Hospitals throughout the province are taking in COVID-19 patients from overwhelmed hospitals in the GTA, and this week, hospitals in the north were told to cancel non-urgent surgeries.

Harmony Shultz has been waiting nearly a year for a hysterectomy.

"I have fibroids and I have endometriosis and have tried so many things to treat it. And this was our last ditch effort to treat my health issues," she said.

"It's probably the best idea to live a more comfortable life. So to have it delayed continuously has been upsetting. I understand we're in a pandemic, and it's bound to happen. But on my end, anxiously waiting for surgery is hard too."

Endometriosis affects one in 10 people with a uterus. It occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus implants in the pelvic cavity to form lesions, cysts and other growths, according to Endometriosis Network Canada. This can cause pain, internal scarring, infertility and other medical complications. 

The new directive to cancel all non-urgent elective surgeries applies to the whole province.

Ontario Public Health's Dr. Chris Simpson says northern Ontario ICU beds make up just a small fraction of the province's total — but every bit of healthcare capacity has to be maximized. 

"And so we simply can't have elective procedures happening right now anywhere in the province," he said.

"We need every single resource we can get. And we might think that resources needed at centre X today, we might need at centre Y tomorrow."

Managing a painful wait

Even before the third wave of COVID-19, Simpson says there was already a surgery backlog of about a quarter million patients. 

Schultz says the usual wait time for her particular surgery is around five to seven months. Now that she's been waiting about a year, the recent news made her feel like she hit a wall.

"When I heard they were ramping down, I cried. It's a struggle. And the thing that keeps you going is the thought that there will be an end in sight eventually with this surgery." 

In the meantime she's trying to manage her pain as best she can, without taking narcotics.

"Sometimes I wake up and I have energy. And other days I lay in bed and I have a difficult time working," Schultz said.

"Luckily, I work from home. But even going to my desk in my own house sometimes is a struggle, too. And I also have two children that I have to take care of."

She plans her week so that if there is a busier day, she'll take a couple of days off before and a couple of days after to rest and heal.

"There's so many other people that have even more important surgery. I think of those people and I feel horrible for them that they have to now wait longer in pain," Schultz said.

"I'm just hoping that maybe by 2023 there'll be a little bit of hope for everyone and things will be back to normal, medical-wise in in the hospitals."

As hospitals take in COVID-19 patients from the overwhelmed hotspot areas, hospitals in northern Ontario have now been told to scale back elective, non-urgent surgeries. We heard from a Sudbury woman whose nearly year-long wait for a hysterectomy has just been extended again. 6:25

With files from Sarah MacMillan


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