How far can you travel to have excision surgery?
How far can one travel for medical care? Why despite being such common illnesses, some endometriosis and adenomyosis patients need to go abroad for care? We caught up with one of our patients who traveled from the Philippines to have surgery with Dr Mitroi, to see how she is.
A year ago you travelled to Romania to have your surgery. How are you now and how was your recovery?
J.My recovery period has a lot of ups and downs. The first 3 menstruations post-surgery were really intense and painful but these were expected as my tissues were healing. I was able to return to work two months after the surgery. My energy levels dramatically improved. As my recovery continued, my period became shorter (from 10 days down to 5-7 days), I still got some occasional cramping due to my adenomyosis but this is more manageable than before. During my period, I only need one take of analgesic, sometimes, hot compress is enough.
The excision surgery really improved my quality of life. My endometriosis journey is not easy but it taught me a lot of things, one of which is to take good care of my body. During the recovery period up to this day, I still incorporate a healthy diet and exercise along with regular consultations with my local gynecologist to monitor my health condition. Currently, I am continuously taking hormonal pills to manage my adenomyosis as I am still young and not yet ready for a hysterectomy. I am now more than a year from my excision surgery and I can greatly compare that my life is way better than before.
When did you have your first symptoms and how long it took you to obtain a diagnosis?
J. I have been dealing with heavy and clotty periods since I got my first period. There were no pains so I just brushed it off and never consulted a gynecologist. I am a registered nurse and work in a medical research industry but I never bothered to have myself checked (my mistake). As I got older, my symptoms became progressively worse. My menstruations have become irregular, more heavy and I’ve been passing lots of huge blood clots. The worst part of it was experiencing stabbing-like pains on top of my heavy periods. My quality of life was really affected, I got more absences at work and missed a lot of opportunities. Endometriosis is one of the toughest things I’ve had to deal with. I think it took me a decade to finally seek medical consultation. During my first transvaginal ultrasound, it revealed ovarian cysts, kissing ovaries and a suspected adenomyosis.
Going abroad for surgery is not something that one can do easily and in your case, you needed a visa as well. What made you say I am going abroad for surgery and what were the steps you have taken (visa, medical letters)?
J. After my initial diagnosis, my previous local gynecologist just put me on Lupron however, instead of having some relief, I still got terrible pains and my body became weaker. I never had enough information about this disease and had not enough support from my previous doctor. My curious mind encouraged me to research further about endometriosis because I am not getting any better. I need accurate answers and I am the type of person who does not want to be just dismissed. I was able to join Nancy’s Nook, an International Endometriosis Group and found vetted doctors who conduct endometriosis excision surgery. I also joined a local endometriosis group to verify if we have an expert in endometriosis excision surgery in the Philippines, unfortunately, doctors here only do ablations technique for now. As we know, ablation surgery has more chance of recurrence because more disease could be left behind. I do not want repeated surgeries that is why I decided to invest and travel abroad to seek an expert treatment.
I knew about Dr. Mitroi through several recommendations from his previous patients that I got connected with online, one of them was also a Filipina who underwent surgery with Dr. Mitroi, I cannot thank her enough for giving me some tips and advice when going abroad for a surgery. Fortunately, I also met an endo warrior who was also determined to travel abroad to have an endometriosis excision surgery.
Processing our travel documents was very easy and fast. If I remember it correctly, it only took us a month to settle everything, this includes waiting for our visa to be processed by the Romanian Embassy. Bucharest Endometriosis Center was really helpful in securing all the documents we needed including the invitation letter and an estimated surgery cost document that were needed to be attached in our Romanian visa requirements. Days before our interview, the Romanian Embassy here in the Philippines suddenly informed us that we needed to personally submit the original documents (soft copies will not be honored), and luckily, Bucharest Endometriosis Center was fast enough to send the original copies of their letters through an international courier and in 3 days, we were able to obtained it. Our visa was approved and we couldn’t be happier.
A foreign country, different culture and so on. Overall, how was your experience with both the medical team and the country/city?
J.The only challenge that my surgery buddy and I experienced was the language barrier in Romania. Fortunately, some medical staff including Dr. Mitroi speak well in English. Some staff are not speaking in English but I appreciate them for using google translate and we got no problems with our transactions. People in Romania are very hospitable and friendly, the hotel near Bucharest Endometriosis Center that we stayed in was very accommodating, the hotel staff even accompanied us in the bank when we were paying for the surgery expenses. We were very sore at that time because we were just days away from the surgery, surprisingly, the hotel staff voluntarily drove us from the hotel to the bank.
The service of the Bucharest Endometriosis Center is highly commendable. I got no major concerns during pre-op, recovery stay and post-op consultations. All things to be done were well-instructed and we were guided along the way. They are doing their job very well and you can feel that they are very compassionate toward their patients.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to patients that have no choice but to travel (abroad) to see an endometriosis doctor? What they should look for in addition to experience and a multidisciplinary team?
J.It really pays to have a good background about endometriosis. Researching helped me to find a very skilled surgeon and bring my life back. A skilled endometriosis surgeon does multiple surgeries in a month and works with a multidisciplinary team because endometriosis is a very complex disease. Dr. Gabriel Mitroi is an amazing surgeon and a doctor who listens to his patients. I never felt validated in my life until I met him. All of the other staff of Bucharest Endometriosis Center were really professional and caring. I never felt nervous because they were very gentle to their patients. My stay at this hospital makes me feel like I am also being cared for at home.
If I can leave one piece of advice to anyone who plans to have their surgery abroad, trust yourself and don’t stop advocating for your health. Our pain is real, work with an expert and never ever assume or self-medicate. Travelling for expert care is worth pursuing. Results are exceptional if you just do the homework.
How was your return journey and looking back now, would you travel again, if needed?
J.We stayed around 14 days in Romania which includes the pre-surgery preparations, surgery and post-surgery recovery stay and consultations. It was not easy travelling back to the Philippines because it is too far (around 6,000 miles from Romania) and has a connecting flight with a 14-hour lay-over in the airport. As expected, my tummy was very sore and bloated because of the surgery and it was not that easy to move around during our post-op travel. Impressively, Dr. Mitroi never left us during this time, and he kept in touch during our travel back home and even up to this day as long as you need some medical advice.
Endometriosis is a life-long battle and if I needed surgery in the future, I would still seek expert care in Bucharest Endometriosis Center in a heartbeat.