A medical mystery or a rare condition?

By Sharmain Grainger
Why would a 32-year-old woman, after giving birth, be unable to walk? Well, that is the question that doctors at both private and public hospitals here, have so far been unable to answer over the past month. She appears physically healthy, but the moment she attempts to take a step her limbs simply engage sleep mode. She is even barely able to sit up and breastfeed her newborn.
I speak of Shellon Atkinson, a city resident, who is essentially a medical mystery to doctors who have attended to her since she gave birth on February 20, 2016, at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
She’d rather not have her photo published with this article, but I believe her story, and even without her photo, it is one that should be told so that maybe someone could be better cared for if they suffer from an ordeal such as hers.
I am by no means a medical expert, but I am inclined to embrace Atkinson’s belief that what happened to her could have been handled in a much better manner, even if it was unavoidable.
Atkinson is convinced that the literal collapse of some of her motor skills occurred maybe during or soon after giving birth and is linked to just that – giving birth.
She doesn’t try to hide the desperation she feels to be normal again, and you can hear the fear in her voice that being an invalid could possibly be her ultimate fate.
Rewind to the beginning of this year. She was just like any normal young woman excited to give birth to her baby. She’d made all the necessary plans and though she wanted to deliver her baby at a private hospital, she adhered to a relative’s appeal to do it at the Georgetown Public Hospital.
Atkinson remembers every aspect of being hospitalised. In fact she was hospitalised for just about one week before she actually delivered. At 41 weeks pregnant she was told that labour would have to be induced. When nurses observed signs of her going into labour, Atkinson recalled that she was asked to go to the labour room.
With mounting pain, she walked like any other pregnant woman would to have her baby delivered. She remembers it was a difficult delivery. She remembers everything, even being told by an attending nurse to “hold your ankles and push.”
But she also remembers feeling too weak to push and having told the nurse just that. “No, no, no you have to push,” she recalls hearing the nurse say before the nurse pushed her (Atkinson’s) knees down in such a way she believes it ruptured something in her very feminine area.
Immediately after giving birth, she wasn’t remotely aware that something was gradually occurring in her anatomy that would soon make it impossible for her to walk. After all, she thought she was merely recovering from the pains associated with delivery.
In fact she believed all was well until she was required to stand to have her vital signs checked. Atkinson recalled that as soon as she got up from the bed on which she’d moments before lay, and touched the ground, she collapsed. But it wasn’t a fainting spell. Nurses at first were sure she’d fainted and, according to Atkinson, “a nurse gave me something to smell.”
An x-ray was eventually done and it was found that her pelvic bone was dislocated by at least one centimetre. But after multiple examinations at the GPHC she was told that she really should be able to walk even with the existing situation. But she and her family members are convinced that there is something else amiss.
“I don’t know if it is a pinched nerve or muscle problem, but something is very wrong. I still can’t walk and it is such a painful situation,” said Atkinson.
As such her family took her to a private hospital and there she was x-rayed and an ultrasound was done. Aside from the pelvic dislocation, a mass was detected in the area near her private part. In fact it is believed that an infection had occurred as a result. The doctor at the private hospital was suspicious that cotton wool or some foreign object was left inside of Atkinson, but was eventually able to deduce that the mass was in fact a blood clot.
However, the deduction over at the private hospital was that nothing detected should have prevented her from being mobile.
And of course she remains devastated as would any normal person who, for all of their life, has been able to operate independently and suddenly is bedridden.
“One month I have been in bed. I have to get support for everything, even to care for my baby,” Atkinson recently lamented.
She, however, has a theory of her own. Atkinson recalled, while hospitalised at the public hospital, hearing a conversation between some medical personnel, one of whom questioned why she (Atkinson) was allowed to have a natural birth given the size of her baby. Her baby’s size at birth was 4.9 kilograms which is equivalent to 10 pounds 13 ounces; a rather big baby. This has caused Atkinson to conclude that her resulting situation must have had something to do with the size of her baby. But no medical personnel she has seen has corroborated this theory.
But there must be some plausible explanation. So I decided to surf the internet a bit. I kept coming up with ‘Symphysis pubis dysfunction’. While I am not concluding that this is her condition, there are some eerie similarities.
‘Symphysis pubis dysfunction’ (SPD) is said to be a rather rare but well known pelvic problem that occurs during or after pregnancy. But based on my readings it most often starts to manifest long before delivery and the appropriate thing is for a doctor to recommend a caesarean section instead of natural birth.
Essentially, this condition causes the symphysis pubis or pelvic area to become unstable. It manifests with very noticeable pains and therefore it is not likely that it could have been overlooked during pregnancy. Moreover, my speculative theory is that Atkinson could be suffering from after-pregnancy SPD.
The condition is known to generally manifest with back pain, a grinding sensation in the pubic area, pain between the legs and of course difficulty walking. I however have not yet come across a single article where it caused complete immobility. Could it be that Shellon Atkinson is suffering from a severe case of SPD? Or is she suffering from something else altogether?
What I am however sure of is that her condition is something for the medical experts to determine hopefully soon, in order to give this desperate woman peace of mind.
What should be comforting to Atkinson is that if it is SPD, she is likely to recover with some exercise and other prescribed activities recommended by a medical expert. (Kaieteur News)

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