I had always thought that it was “normal” for girls and women to bleed heavily during their monthly periods.  After all, I grew up seeing the chamber pot (arinola) in my parents’ room filled with red liquid on the weeks that my mom had.

It was not unusual for us—my mother, my sisters and I—to go home unplanned on days we had our periods because of blood stain.   Our mother knew she was a “bleeder.”  Like her, we would all “bleed” for weeks to months. But at a time when the Internet was still unknown and medical journals were hard to access, doctors did not have any explanation on our excessive and prolonged menses.  Only boys and men could have bleeding disorders, we were told.

In 1988 our mother underwent a biopsy operation for a growth in her uterus called Myoma.  While most women aged 40 and above could have that condition, our mother’s attending physician decided to remove the mass.  She underwent pre-operation procedures including a test on her clotting and bleeding time.  Everything was normal.  No signs of any possible problem at all.  Mama even walked to the operating room.  Little did we know that she was walking to her death chamber.

The operation started on a positive note.   In less than an hour, doctors successfully removed the mass on her uterus.  As they were trying to close her up, her wound bled excessively.  One bag of blood after the other was transfused.  By the 10th bag, Mama lost so much blood and in that very same morning, we lost her.  At 51 and at the peak of her career, Mama died of excessive blood loss.

Her death came as a shock to all of us—the doctors and nurses included.   Although it would seem like a case of medical malpractice, records of the procedures showed the doctors followed protocol.  The only thing they missed was the fact that she could indeed have a bleeding disorder.

Over the years, the cause of our mother’s death had been a mystery to us.  And we never imagined that our heavy monthly periods could be connected with a medical condition that cost our mother’s life.

In our adult life, we all experienced different gynaecological challenges.  My eldest sister had hemorrage and went flatline after delivering her first child. Thankfully, she was revived.  My other older sister had miscarriages.  I gave birth prematurely to my three kids—the eldest at 27 weeks, the second at 32 weeks and the youngest at 33 weeks.

Aside from preterm deliveries, I experienced heavy bleeds for a month thereafter.  Because my older sisters also experienced the same, I thought it was only “normal.” (To read full story, click here.)

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About Andrea Echavez

I am an advocate for people with bleeding disorders. My daughter Star and I were diagnosed with von Willebrand's Disease Type 2M.