Irena’s Story

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Changes in your health are hard to predict, but knowing you’re in good hands can make a big difference when the unexpected happens. For Irena Piekarski, a visit to see her elderly mother in Poland led to Irena’s finding out her own health needed to be tended to. “During my visit, I was helping my mother get around and I lifted her,” remembers Irena. “I felt a sharp pain and shortly after noticed that I had some bleeding. So, I went to see a nearby gynecologist.” The Polish doctor prescribed medication to help stop Irena’s bleeding. She also recommended that Irena undergo a procedure known as dilation and curettage, or D&C, in which tissue is removed from a uterus to help doctors diagnose causes of uterine bleeding.

A Thorough Approach

Once back in Illinois, Irena went to see her primary care physician, who recommended that she see Joseph J. Furlin, MD, at Westlake Hospital for the procedure. After conducting a gynecological examination and a thorough medical history check, Dr. Furlin agreed that Irena would benefit from a D&C. During the procedure, Dr. Furlin discovered the presence of polyps in Irena’s uterus. A biopsy was performed to determine if the polyps were cancerous.  

“During my initial exam, I talked to Dr. Furlin about having recently been diagnosed with diabetes,”  Irena remembered. "He mentioned that because of my diabetes, I would likely need to have a D&C more often than most women and I was at increased risk for uterine cancer."

Based on Irena's medical and family history, Dr. Furlin performed a D&C, which showed that Irena had endometrial hyperplasia (a condition marked by an excessive proliferation of the cells of the inner lining of the uterus). Evidence shows that if left untreated, endometrial hyperplasia can develop into uterine cancer in up to 18 percent of patients so Dr. Furlin recommended that Irena undergo a total laparoscopic hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus and the cervix) to reduce her risk of developing cancer and eliminate the need for multiple D&C procedures.

Getting Ready for Surgery

“I remember being really scared to undergo surgery. But Dr. Furlin said that he would attempt to do my surgery laparoscopically (in a minimally invasive way) since my biopsy results indicated no signs of cancer. He explained that laparoscopic hysterectomy would cause very little scarring and I would recover much faster,” Irena recalled. “Dr. Furlin did warn me that due to my weight and some scar tissue I had from previous surgeries (I had a C-section with one of my children and appendectomy as a child), he couldn’t guarantee that he would be able to complete the surgery laparoscopically.”

Thankfully, Dr. Furlin was able to use a minimally invasive surgical approach despite the challenges he discussed with Irena. “I am so happy with how my surgery went,” says Irena. “I was very nervous before surgery, as were my daughters. Dr. Furlin was wonderful and spent a lot of time explaining to both me and my daughters every single detail of the procedure and what to expect every step of the way. It really helped us be ready for the surgery.”

A Quick, Easy Recovery

Irena went in for surgery in the afternoon and was released home the very next afternoon. “At home I told my daughters it felt like I hadn’t even had surgery,” recalls Irena. “I felt no pain at all. It was hard to believe that I had just gone through surgery. Once I healed, all I had to show for it was three small dots on my abdomen and a small incision mark in my belly button.”

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When thinking back on her experience, Irena remembers warmly her time at Westlake Hospital. “It is such a great hospital!” says Irena. “I’m extremely pleased with the care that I received there. Dr. Furlin has golden hands. He was born to be a doctor, it seems to be his true calling in life. I’ve never met a doctor who took such gentle and kind care of me. My daughters were equally impressed. While I was in the hospital I was also very impressed with the nurses. One nurse in particular came to my bedside to talk to me about my diabetes. I had only been diagnosed about a year and a half before surgery, so it was still pretty new to me. She spent a lot of time talking to me all about my chronic condition — what to do, what not to do. It helped me a lot with managing my diabetes. Everyone was just so kind, it was amazing!”