Anatomy of an Abortion Gone Wrong

This Doc Rocks….

Anatomy of an unsafe abortion

Dr. Jen Gunter
February 11, 2012

I was in clinic when I heard the overhead STAT page to the emergency room.

As I sprinted down the stairs, I ran through the possible scenarios. I wasn’t on call, so the day to day gynecologic emergencies weren’t my purview. I hadn’t operated on anyone in the past few weeks, so unlikely to be one of my own patients with a complication.

Logically there was only one conclusion.

A nurse was holding the staff entrance to the ER open. From the look on her face I surmised this was to save the minute or two it would take to punch in the numbers on the lock and inquire at the desk for patient’s whereabouts.

“Down there,” she pointed.

On the gurney lay a young woman the color of white marble. The red pool between her legs, ominously free of clots, offered a silent explanation.

“She arrived a few minutes ago. Not even a note.” My resident was breathless with anger, adrenaline, and panic.

I had an idea who she went to. The same one the others did. The same one many more would visit. A doctor, but considering what I had seen he couldn’t have any formal gynecology training. The only thing he offered that the well-trained provers didn’t was a cut-rate price. If you don’t know to ask, well, a doctor is a doctor. That’s assuming you are empowered enough to have such a discussion. I was also pretty sure his office didn’t offer interpreters.

I needed equipment not available in an emergency room. I looked at the emergency room attending. “Call the OR and tell them we need a room. Now.” And then I turned to my resident. I was going to tell him to physically make sure a room, any room, was ready when we arrived, but he had already sprinted towards the stairs. He knew.

We didn’t wait for an orderly. A terrified medical student and I raced down the hallway with the gurney. The amorphous red pool dripped onto the floor as we rounded the corner to the elevators.

The double doors that led to the operating rooms swung open. “The urology room. They’re between cases,” my resident shouted.

I saw an anesthesiologist out of the corner of my eye. “You. Now!” Most emergencies can wait a few minutes to check in at the front desk and for the anesthesiologist and nursing staff to take stock of the situation. This was not one of them.

The urologist, whose room I appropriated, blustered and sputtered in behind me. “What the fuck are you doing barging in, I’ve got another case…” but as we moved my patient over to the operating table and he saw the blood, he stopped. He grabbed a tray of instruments and opened. “I’ll be your scrub.”

The anesthesiologist was pissed. Not really mad, more riled up than anything. No one likes to be blind sided, no matter how well intentioned. And he probably thought I was over reacting. That is until he put in another intravenous.

“Fuck.” What looked like blood tinged water flashed back.

And now they all understood what I knew the second I laid eyes on this patient. Abortions that go horribly wrong bleed out. Quickly.

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