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1/23/2014: This post has been edited from initial publication
In February 2012, an opera singer endured severe bodily damage due to an unnecessary and botched episiotomy—a procedure designed to enlarge her vaginal opening—performed on her while giving birth at a military base in Kentucky. The failed episiotomy left Amy Herbst, 33, incontinent, severely flatulent, and unable to have pleasurable sex.
Herbst, who was last seen in the Nashville Opera Company's production of Madame Butterfly, farts so much that her career as an opera singer is ruined, probably forever. Tiffany Williams, the US Army nurse responsible for this calamity, cut the tissue between the vagina and anus, which led to Herbst's reproductive and digestive system being damaged permanently. The procedure was performed without the mother-to-be's consent. Amy and her husband, Staff Sgt. James Herbst, are suing the US government and seeking $2.5 million for, as the Daily Mail puts it, “negligence, as well as pain and suffering, embarrassment, and loss of income.”
The procedure is said to have been done to speed up the delivery of Amy Herbst's son, whose shoulder placement was holding back the delivery. However, as her lawsuit claims, “At no time during the labor and delivery process was [she] informed about the possible need for or the risks and benefits of an episiotomy. At no time was she asked to consent, nor did she consent, to the performance of an episiotomy.”
Basically, nurses can't go tearing apart vagina and anus tissue willy-nilly, especially if the woman who is being torn up has no idea what is happening, and even more especially if it was an unnecessary thing to do in the first place. The lawsuit further claims that there were other, safer methods the nurse could have employed which would have also sped up the delivery, yet the nurse failed to do use them.
The suit writes that as soon as Herbst left the hospital she, “began to experience fecal urgency and incontinence, including periodic leaking of stool and excessive flatulence.” During a visit with a different nurse she, “complained she could feel gas coming out of her vagina and was also experiencing difficulty controlling bowel movements.”
This nurse informed her that the previous nurse's attempts to repair her incision had not worked. The suit sums it up writing that she suffered a, “complete breakdown of the episiotomy and perineum and the external sphincter is disrupted and the vagina and rectum are basically connected without any perineal body.”
The Washington Post says a spokesperson for the hospital is unwilling to comment on a pending lawsuit.
The Daily Mail adds: “A colorectal surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center later told Herbst that she would need reconstructive surgery to repair the damage, but that it 'would likely not eliminate the lack of control of flatus and [she] may require additional surgeries in the future'.”
The doctor also warned her that after the surgery, future pregnancies will require her to give birth via c-section, which she points out could risk her singing career. The surgery to repair the damage has been postponed because of this, and they plan to wait till she is done popping out babies the old-fashioned way. However, Herbst claims that she still can't professionally sing due to her unruly farts. Her role in Madame Butterlfy was small enough that she was able to work without discomfort, but she claims that instances like that are the exception, not the rule.
Of course this is a grave situation, one which I cannot fully relate to. The Herbst family definitely deserves to be financially compensated by the government for damages done. The couple's attorney, Charles Allen, spoke on Amy's behalf: "She is suffering through a very embarrassing and very significant injury, and frankly, the prognosis of a fully successful repair is pretty low.”