After Years of Discomfort, Prolapse Surgery Enables Julia to Live Actively
It’s no exaggeration to say that Julia Roudi now has a new lease on life. After experiencing discomfort for decades, Julie, at 63, is now able to walk as far and as long as she wants, as well as enjoy more comfortable, fuller days.
Julia suffered from a severely prolapsed uterus and bladder and, like many women, thought it was something that she had to learn to live with. She tried physical therapy, but it only helped to a limited degree. After several decades, the prolapse worsened, and her gynecologist urged her to see a urologist for specialized treatment.
Uterine and bladder prolapse (also referred to as a “dropped or fallen uterus and bladder”) occurs when the pelvic floor muscles and connective tissue weaken, allowing the uterus and bladder to descend into the vagina and bulge out beyond the vaginal opening. Significant strain—often from vaginal childbirth—and menopause are the most common causes of uterine and bladder prolapse. Depending on the severity, it can cause discomfort, incontinence, frequent bladder infections, and painful intercourse.
“I was uncomfortable every minute of the day,” explains Julia. “I knew that it was time to take charge and find a solution.”
She first met with a general urologist, but wondered if there was one who had more experience treating women. She researched online and discovered the field of Urogynecology, as well as Dr. Culligan at Weill Cornell Medicine.
“I had no idea that this specialty existed; I was thrilled,” she recounts. “As soon as I discovered Dr. Culligan, I knew that he was the physician I needed to see. I am so glad that I found him.”
Meeting Dr. Culligan
From her initial meeting in March 2017 with Dr. Culligan, Julia understood the advantage of seeing a physician who specializes in treating women. “It was clear that he knows the female anatomy, how prolapse issues affect our daily lives, and how to help women,” she says.
Dr. Culligan presented Julia with several treatment options, including pessaries, but he believed surgery to be the best course of action given the severity of her prolapse. Julia agreed.
“Dr. Culligan did an excellent job of explaining the procedure and helping me understand the anatomy,” she says. “I went many years thinking that there was no solution to this problem, and I was so excited to find out that this wasn’t true.”
In May 2017, Dr. Culligan performed a robot-assisted partial hysterectomy and reconstruction of her normal pelvic supports using a very lightweight mesh material (known as a sacrocolpopexy). “He’s everything that you want in a physician and surgeon; he’s kind and professional, explained everything clearly, and was attentive throughout the entire process—from the first appointment to my recovery after surgery.”
A Noticeable Difference at Weill Cornell Medicine
Julia believes that the major benefit of having this surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine was Dr. Culligan’s expertise. He is a nationally recognized leader in this robot-assisted procedure, which is minimally invasive and has an extremely good long-term success rate. He also researches and teaches extensively to improve surgical approaches and the success of robotic sacrocolpopexy. “I wanted Dr. Culligan to perform this surgery, no one else,” explains Julia. “I trusted him completely.”
She previously underwent cervical and lumbar spine surgeries, so she thought she knew what to expect as she prepared for the operation. She was surprised, however, at how comfortable her experience was at Weill Cornell Medicine, where she felt surrounded by an attentive, pleasant care team.
“Everyone was smiling and kind,” says Julia. “I had had problems with headaches with my previous surgeries, and the nurses and anesthesiologists at Weill Cornell Medicine took the time to discuss this and ensure I experienced as little pain as possible. Even the gentleman who transported me to my surgery was obviously happy to work at Weill Cornell. He cheerfully told me, “Well … we’re number one.’”
Julia’s surgery was scheduled the day before her grandson’s first communion. “Dr. Culligan knew this was an important event for me,” she explains. “The next day, Dr. Culligan called to check up on me. We discussed how I was feeling, and he gave me the clear to attend the First Communion. That personal care meant a lot to me.”
Advice for Other Women
Now, a few weeks after her surgery, Julia is recovering. This means avoiding any lifting, but it also means doing one of her favorite things—walking. “Now I can walk for several miles at a time without any discomfort,“ she says. “My life has been so improved by this surgery. Every day I tell my family how good I feel. It’s remarkable how much the prolapse had affected my life.”
Julia urges any woman who is experiencing a similar problem to see a Urogynecologist as soon as possible. “There’s no need to suffer,” she advises. “There’s a solution out there.” She also hopes that the field of Urogynecology will continue to grow, so that more women will know that it exists and be able to receive the help that she did.
“After so many years of discomfort due to the prolapse,” says Julia, “I now have my life back. I tell everyone that asks me about my experience how impressed I am with Weill Cornell Medicine and Dr. Culligan. He’s just incredible.”