Jessica is a typical college student. She attends graphic design classes at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, enjoys creating art in her spare time and hangs out with her friends. But Jessica also struggles each day with intense pain due to severe endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of a woman’s uterus grows outside of the uterus. It can cause pelvic discomfort, ranging from mild pain with menstruation to debilitating pain every day, as well as infertility. Studies suggest almost one in ten women suffer from it, however endometriosis is very hard to diagnosis conclusively without surgery. There are a variety of treatments women can pursue, but one of the most comprehensive is laparoscopic surgery to find and remove the abnormal tissue growth.
Jessica had severe symptoms and felt like she had tried everything, including an IUD, birth control to regulate her hormones and conversations about surgery with her gynecologist, before she found a book called “The Endometriosis Health and Diet Program: Get Your Life Back” by Dr. Andrew Cook, a gynecologist who specializes in treating endometriosis and practices at El Camino Hospital Los Gatos.
“My whole body was always in pain. I tried acupuncture for my lower back pain and leg fatigue, hormone therapy, medical menopause, everything had side effects that were almost as bad as my pain,” Jessica says.
Jessica’s mother found Dr. Cook’s book online while she was researching endometriosis. At that point, Jessica was undergoing hormone therapy and the mother and daughter were open to anything that would help her avoid continuing that treatment. The hormone therapy she was undergoing mimics many of the symptoms of menopause, for example causing hot flashes and nerve pain, and can be debilitating for patients.
“Dr. Cook’s book suggested diet changes, exercise, supplements and more, all of which I implemented a few months ago,” Jessica continues. “I noticed a big change just by that so when we began to think about surgery, I figured the only way to do it was to go to California to see Dr. Cook.”
Jessica called and set up a virtual appointment with Dr. Cook. Via the video connection, they reviewed her medical records and symptoms and what therapies she had already tried, and then determined that the next step would be for Jessica to come to California for laparoscopic wide-excision surgery. Dr. Cook specializes in wide excision of the endometriosis, a minimally invasive surgery that removes abnormal tissues as well as a margin of normal tissue around the affected area to ensure all of the abnormal tissue removed and only healthy tissues is left behind. This technique removes the endometriosis without harming the bowel, bladder, blood vessels and other vital structures.
“The endometriosis team of Dr. Cook, his office staff and El Camino Hospital was amazing, so organized and professional. They helped coordinate our whole travel process and were immediately responsive. Within days of us deciding to move forward with the surgery, El Camino Hospital had me scheduled and ready to go,” says Jessica.
“While we were there, Dr. Cook and all the nursing staff went above and beyond to make sure that I was comfortable,” Jessica explains. “The staff was extremely attentive, but also had a nice way of giving my mom and me space when it seemed like we needed it. They even suggested easy wheelchair-accessible walking paths for my mom and me to take a walk instead of being stuck in a hospital bed all day.”
While Jessica was in the hospital, she also participated in El Camino Hospital’s Art at the Bedside program. As an artist herself, Jessica was pleasantly surprised and appreciated the opportunity to have a guided artwork session in her hospital room and take her mind off her post-surgical pain. After a few short days, Jessica was released from the hospital and she and her mother returned to Washington.
Jessica says she cannot thank Dr. Cook and the entire El Camino Hospital staff enough: “I have so much praise and thankfulness for Dr. Cook. He is so professional and truly the expert in endometriosis. Everything about my surgery was seamless, largely thanks to him and the El Camino Hospital staff.”
Jessica just finished a semester studying abroad and is thrilled that she was able to experience it largely pain free.