Today Planned Parenthood Action Fund kicks off their statewide Stand With Texas Women Bus Tour. They are making their first stop tonight in Houston at Discovery Green (they have stated RAIN or SHINE they will be there). Tour organizers just released the speaker list which includes Senator Wendy Davis and President of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards. Other speakers standing up for Texas women and families tonight at the Anheuser-Busch Stage are Melaney Linton (President of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast), Senator Kirk Watson, Senator Sylvia R. Garcia, Senator Jose Rodriguez, Senator Rodney Ellis and Dr. Damla Dryden-Ob-Gyn.
Many of the speakers scheduled for tonight are familiar to Houstonians and Texans. And now thanks to Texas Republicans many of these names are becoming familiar throughout the nation due to the recent attacks on our reproductive rights. However, when I first viewed the list of speaker’s one name on the list brought me to tears. To be honest, I’ve been crying ever since the night we all watched Wendy Davis, state Senators and the citizens of Texas filibuster SB5. Even watching the amazing video montages that were released over the last few weeks have caused many proud Texas size tear drops to come pouring out of me. The tears this morning though were not from a place of hope but from a personal and painful experience that I had with one of the scheduled speakers, Dr. Damla Dryden .
In late 2009 I was checked into the emergency room at Ben Taub Hospital. What I thought was a severe menstrual cycle turned out to be a life threatening ectopic pregnancy. By the time I was admitted into the ER I had been bleeding for over a month. I have a female specific health disorder called endometriosis. Endometriosis is a common and painful disease that affects about 5.5 million women in North America and is one of the top three causes of infertility in women. My condition causes cells from the lining of my uterus to flourish outside of my uterus. The tissue can grow in or around a woman’s ovaries, fallopian tubes, the various structures that support the uterus, and the lining of the pelvic cavity. Doctors have no real understanding of what causes it to occur and there is no cure. It was because of this disorder I assumed that I was just having a really long menstrual cycle and did not become worried until the third week of bleeding. At the time I was admitted into the hospital I was, and still am, one of the 1.5 million Texans without health insurance. Even after I became concerned for my health, my lack of insurance caused me to wait another two weeks before going to Ben Taub.
The series of events and memories that occurred after arriving at the hospital that day mostly consist of fear and sadness. From the admitting doctor explaining my life was in serious danger due to an embryo being logged in my fallopian tube to the panicked telephone call I made to my mother explaining I was scheduled to have an unexpected invasive surgery in less than an hour. I was alone and terrified when they took me back to prep me for surgery. It was in this moment of despair that Dr. Dryden came into the room as they were prepping me for surgery to introduce herself. She had barely gotten her name out before I started crying uncontrollably and told her that I didn’t have health insurance and I couldn’t afford to pay her or the hospital. She came over to me and held my hand and explained she was not doing this for money, she was doing this to save my life. Dr. Dryden not only removed the embryo from my fallopian tube but also had to take my entire fallopian tube as well because the tissue had grown in and around the tube rendering it useless for any future reproductive plans. There are no words to describe how grateful I am to Dr. Dryden, for not only saving my life but for being the singular source of strength in that dark hour.
I’ve only shared this story with a handful of close friends but seeing Dr. Dryden’s name on that list today made me realize what is really at stake during this current reproductive debate. My story and body are different from other women and their experiences and struggles. These issues are not something that can be blanketed by legislation because the variation from woman to woman or family to family is not something that can fit into their tiny box of how all vaginas’ must work. I am really proud to see Dr. Dryden on a list of speakers with Cecile Richards, Wendy Davis, Sylvia R. Garcia, Kirk Watson and the many other courageous Texas women and men. Women and men who truly understand what is at stake in this debate and are committed to protecting our reproductive rights, our health and our lives.