Specialized Surgery Successfully Treats Vulvodynia
Published: 4/13/2009

Mary Ellen Crawford and Dr. Barbara O’Connell, MD
Mary Ellen Crawford admits that it’s been extremely difficult for her to put into words how much she appreciates Barbara O’Connell, MD, a UW Health physician who specializes in gynecology and gynecologic surgery at Meriter Hospital’s WomanCare Clinic.

“Every time I sit down and try to write something, I get so emotional. I can’t even begin to tell Dr. O’Connell how important she is to me,” says Mary Ellen. “She is more gifted than she can ever imagine. I had lost hope that my situation would ever improve…I had basically given up that I would ever feel better.

”She only wishes, in retrospect, that their paths had crossed long before they did.

Mary Ellen admits that she had more than her fair share of medical problems through the years. She was hit by a car as a child, which led to numerous orthopedic issues needing attention, including having her left hip replaced three times. She has also undergone a number of gynecologic surgeries for a variety of reasons.

But what took its toll on Mary Ellen, physically and mentally, was a rectocele and enterocele surgery in 2000 that went badly because of a pre-existing prolapsed vagina. A subsequent surgical procedure at University of Loyola corrected the prolapsed vagina, but the procedure performed in 2000 led Mary Ellen to experience excruciating vaginal pain, anguish and numerous dead ends when it came to finding successful treatment.

Then came a referral in late 2006 to Dr. O’Connell at WomanCare, a clinic that takes pride in providing friendly, compassionate and comforting care for its patients. Mary Ellen had heard much about Dr. O’Connell, who lists treating vulvar skin and pain conditions among her medical specialties. Still, she was skeptical that anyone would be able to reverse her intense pain, which, in turn, would give her peace of mind.“I was pretty convinced by that time, after years of not getting any relief, that there was nothing anyone could do to help. I was ready to leave with my head held high and convince myself that I had done the best I could,” Mary Ellen says.

“Then Dr. O’Connell started asking questions, and it was amazing—the questions she asked and how she asked them were right on the mark. It was like she knew, during the exam, what it was that I had been feeling and why I was so frustrated.”

Dr. O’Connell performed two procedures three months apart. First came a rectocele repair that included reconstructing the vaginal wall through removing scar tissue and replacing it with movable, healthy tissue that made the wall smoother. She followed that up with a perineoplasty to “clean up” Mary Ellen’s vaginal opening.

“Dr. O’Connell turned off the pain…she turned around a horrible situation that nobody to that point had been able to deal with. She was so sensitive to my situation. I could tell our minds were as one, and the day I met her was the day I realized that I had finally met someone who would be able to help me put this painful experience behind me."