A young woman with endometriosis says surgery is being refused due to her age and childless status.
A 23-year-old woman who begged doctors to remove her womb to relieve chronic pain says the surgery is being refused due to her age and childless status.
Hannah Lockhart has endometriosis, a condition that can cause debilitating pain, heavy periods and infertility.
Although she has always wanted her own children, Hannah says her daily pain is now so severe she wants a hysterectomy.
“It’s heartbreaking that just because I’m so young I have to keep suffering,” she told the BBC’s Evening Extra.
Ms Lockhart, from Bangor in County Down, has been in hospital seven times in the past year because of crippling pain from endometriosis.
“Every single day I’m taking morphine, I’m taking different tablets for nerves to try and stop the pain and nothing works,” she said.
The condition occurs when bodily tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other parts of the body.
Ms Lockhart’s problems began in her early teens. By the end of last year she was having difficulty walking and had to use a wheelchair just to be able to leave her house.
“This is far, far more than a sore, heavy period every month – it has damaged several different areas of my body now,” she said.
Complications from the disease mean she needs a urinary catheter to go to the toilet and, after emergency surgery last summer, she is already going through the menopause.
“Endometriosis affects a lot more than just your ovaries and your womb,” she said.
“Mine has spread to my bowel, it’s right through to my back and it has also completely damaged my bladder to the point that I can no longer use the bathroom myself.”
Ms Lockhart is engaged to be married and she and her husband-to-be had been looking forward to starting a family in a few years’ time.
However, the severity of her recent symptoms led to Hannah “pleading” with doctors for a hysterectomy.
“Last June after I had the surgery, I was put into early menopause so that’s something that I’ve been going through… and I will go through for at least another year now.
“Being in menopause at 23 – it’s not very nice at all.
“I have to take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) every day to try and calm down my symptoms that come with it.”
- It is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows elsewhere inside the body – often around reproductive organs, bowel and bladder
- Like the womb lining, tissue builds up every month then bleeds
- However, unlike a period there is no way for the blood to escape
- The build-up of trapped blood can result in internal lesions and scar tissue
- Some people experience no symptoms but for many others the pain can be debilitating and the condition can lead to infertility
- There is no known cause or cure for the condition
At first she found the prospect of infertility more of a struggle than coping with her physical pain, but the couple have since made inquiries about adoption.
“I don’t think I will ever get over the fact that I won’t have my own children naturally – that’s hard to come to terms with.
“But at the end of the day I know that it’s not giving birth to a child that makes you a mum – it’s the love and the life that you provide for that child that makes you a mother.
“So I hold on to that and the hope that some day I’ll be able to give that child a loving home.”
Ms Lockhart’s father, Peter, agrees with her belief that doctors’ reluctance to perform a hysterectomy is due to her young age and the fact she is childless.
“Had she been an older woman who already had children, not a problem – they can deal with it in a more aggressive manner,” he said.
He said it was “very, very difficult” to witness his daughter in such pain and has called on medics to treat her as an individual, rather than making decisions solely based on her age.
“How I see it is: If I’m in this much pain, what use am I to any child as a mother?” said Ms Lockhart.
“I couldn’t pick my child up, I couldn’t do what a mother is supposed to do.
“So I need them to do whatever it takes to make me better in order for me to be able to be a mother to a child in later years.”
BBC News NI has contacted Ms Lockhart’s health trust for a response to the issues she raised.