Dr. Daniel Jacobson knew that removing nearly eight pounds of uterine fibroids using minimally invasive surgery was a life-saving long shot
In 2019 Nicole began experiencing frightening symptoms including an extremely heavy menstrual cycle and fainting bouts. She immediately sought medical attention from a local doctor and was informed that her hemoglobin was about three times lower than normal. She was severely anemic due to her heavy menstrual cycle and was quickly given a blood transfusion and put on birth control in hopes it would curb the bleeding.
A large mass and risk of stroke sends Nicole to urgent care
The birth control helped ease some of her suffering, but around Thanksgiving of 2022 Nicole felt a mass under her rib. She was also experiencing pain in her right arm and pressure in the center of her forehead. Nicole was convinced she was having a stroke and went to urgent care where a CT scan revealed multiple masses in her uterus, one almost 10 inches in size.
“The CT photo looked like there was a fully-grown baby without arms or legs inside of my uterus,” says Nicole. “But I wasn’t pregnant.”
That was the first time Nicole learned about uterine fibroids, and her life swiftly changed.
Seeking the right uterine fibroid treatment
The first doctor Nicole visited prescribed the medication Depo Lupron to shrink the fibroids and control her heavy bleeding. The medication wasn’t enough. She continued to have heavy bleeding and again had to receive an urgent blood transfusion as her hemoglobin was still very low. The clinic began cancelling her appointments, and she was having trouble getting her medication. Nicole knew it was time to move on.
She saw five more doctors. Some prescribed new medications as uterine fibroid treatment that had no effect; some said they wanted to perform a large-incision surgery to remove the uterine fibroids, and still others said there was nothing they could do for her at all. Nicole felt sick to her stomach and fearful as she met with disappointment again and again. She didn’t want a large incision and she felt in her heart someone out there would be able to save her life without such extreme measures.
A family member leads Nicole to CU Medicine OB-GYN East Denver
In February of 2023, as Nicole continued to lose blood and hope, a family member suggested three doctors she may want to investigate for her uterine fibroid treatment.
“There were three doctors on the list, but only one stood out,” says Nicole. “I had a feeling about Dr. Jacobson right away and just knew he was going to save me.”
Nicole swiftly called Dr. Daniel Jacobson at CU Medicine OB-GYN East Denver (formerly Rocky Mountain) to make an appointment, only to learn he was fully booked. She took an appointment with another doctor in the clinic, Dr. Emily Schneider. Dr. Schneider reviewed Nicole’s medical history and thoroughly evaluated her condition. She took the time to learn about Nicole’s apprehensions surrounding a large incision for uterine fibroid treatment. Dr. Schneider was able to bypass the schedule saying, “I’m going to get you in to Dr. Jacobson.”
Dr. Jacobson, a minimally invasive surgery expert, called Nicole the very next day and she had an appointment within 72 hours.
Finding hope in Dr. Jacobson’s life-saving hysterectomy plan
Dr. Jacobson told Nicole that while he couldn’t promise he would be able to remove such a large fibroid uterus through small incisions with a minimally invasive surgical approach, he had reviewed her medical history and was willing to try.
“The moment I sat down with Dr. Jacobson, all of my disappointment and fear was gone,” says Nicole. “I knew he was going to help me.”
Nicole was overcome with joy and peace knowing she had found the doctor who was going to finally solve her problems with the right uterine fibroid treatment. She was still scared to pursue surgery, but the thought of a few small incisions compared to the larger incision the other doctors had suggested helped her move forward, as did Dr. Jacobson’s comforting words.
“He said, ‘You don’t have a choice, Nicole. You must have a hysterectomy to save your life,’,” Nicole shares through her tears. “I said, ‘Tell me what to do and I will do it.’ I fully trusted him.”
Learning to trust while waiting for surgery
Dr. Jacobson instructed Nicole to remain on her current medications while he scheduled surgery and told her to call him if anything changed or she ran into any obstacles, no matter the time of day or night.
Nicole continued to have problems filling her medication from the previous clinic. She called Dr. Jacobson to let him know about her struggle, and he jumped into action, getting her much-needed prescription filled.
Dr. Jacobson was in constant contact as the surgery date was set, and Nicole became more and more anxious about the big day.
“He kept saying it was going to be OK, everything was going to be OK,” says Nicole.
Dr. Jacobson’s all-night prep for her uterine fibroid treatment
It was the day of surgery, and Nicole arrived at the hospital ready to face the operation. Dr. Jacobson entered the room and again reassured her and put her at ease.
“Nicole, I studied you all night – every picture, every scan and test – and I really believe I can do this robotically. I can’t promise we won’t have to make a large cut, but I will do everything in my power to make this minimally invasive so long as you are safe.”
Nicole’s thoughts drifted to her young adult son. What would happen to him if she didn’t make it? “I told Dr. Jacobson I needed to be alive for my son’s upcoming birthday in April,” says Nicole.
Dr. Jacobson calmed her, reassuring her that she would be around to celebrate with her son.
The fibroids had forced Nicole’s uterus to expand far beyond her pelvis and almost all the way up to her breastbone. From November when she first felt the mass until March when the surgery occurred, the fibroid uterus had enlarged considerably. What was supposed to be a three-hour surgery turned into six hours. Her family was worried.
During the surgery, Dr. Jacobson took a moment to inform Nicole’s mother, younger brother, son and nephew that, while the surgery was a bigger undertaking than they had expected, she was doing well. Not long after that, Nicole was wheeled into post-op.
Waking up without fibroids, but with a scare for her nurses
As Nicole slowly came to in the recovery area, she could hear the nurses talking to each other. She wanted to touch her belly to see if the surgery had been robotic or if she was going to be left with a large scar, but she was too afraid to find out.
One of the nurses told the other that Nicole was being admitted overnight. Nicole’s heart dropped. She was sure that meant Dr. Jacobson had needed to pivot during surgery and fully open her up. One nurse asked the other how many cuts he had made and was told five small incisions!
Nicole sat straight up and shouted, “Yes! He did it,” scaring the nurses and making Nicole wince in pain. But she didn’t care. Dr. Jacobson had done what the others said they couldn’t. He had removed nearly eight pounds of fibroids and uterus through minimally invasive surgery with the largest incision measuring only 1 inch long.
Of course, Nicole was happy to get rid of the uterine fibroids that had caused her so much stress and discomfort. She was less happy to have to part with her uterus, but she understood the reason for it.
“I didn’t want more children,” says Nicole. “But that was where I had carried my son, it was his first home, and that was difficult to let go.”
Dr. Jacobson called Nicole at the hospital that night to check on her and came to visit the next morning. She felt that he was truly present for her, as if he was holding her hand throughout the entire journey. Nicole couldn’t wait to see Dr. Jacobson at her follow-up appointment and hug the man who saved her life.
Living a life full of thanks after recovery from her uterine fibroid treatment
Nicole’s recovery went much faster than she had expected. Now she has no more bleeding, no more pain.
Her body had been so confused with the fibroids growing inside of her. She felt like she was pregnant, then felt she was in menopause. Before surgery, her systolic blood pressure was at 188 and her organs were struggling. It was hard to breathe and she was bleeding out as she worked to reach a healthy hemoglobin level before surgery. But that is all behind her now.
Nicole is grateful for the team Dr. Jacobson put together to perform the surgery. From the kind anesthesiologist Dr. Chado to the helpful nurses, everybody made her feel comfortable and cared for, and she has a message for others who have been diagnosed with uterine fibroids:
“Have faith and don’t lose hope,” says Nicole. “There are people out there like Dr. Jacobson who have compassion and genuinely care about the people they help.”
Of Dr. Jacobson, she says, “He saved me emotionally and physically. If it hadn’t been for God sending him to me, I’m not sure how much longer my body could have fought to stay alive.”
Nicole is grateful her suffering is over, but she sometimes finds herself wishing there was a reason to go back to Dr. Jacobson for something else. Although she is thankful that he was able to perform her hysterectomy robotically, she was just as appreciative of his hugs, honesty and clarity.
“How do you thank the person who gives you your life back?” asks Nicole. “There is nothing grand enough for that.”